This is a guest post by growth equity investor Sonya Brown 

As more women move into the C-suite, they are shaking up the order of things. New research shows that startups with female executives are more likely to succeed.

But according to Dow Jones, the median proportion of female executives at successful companies is still only 7.1 percent.


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This is likely to change in the coming years — Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg and Meg Whitman are all examples of powerful women who currently lead significant consumer and enterprise companies. The advantages of female leadership at tech companies are numerous — among them, relationship-building and networking.

I believe relationships are the lifeblood of business success — relationships with customers, partners, team members, family members and more. In my experience, women tend to build and maintain more relationships than men and are more likely to integrate their personal relationships with professional relationships.

This is reflected in the rise of social networking, as evidenced by Facebook statistics. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg reports that women drive 62 percent of Facebook messages, update and comment activity, and 71 percent of daily fan activity.  Women also have more Facebook friends than men and spend more time on the site.

Building strong personal and professional networks has always been a top priority of mine. It served me well when I had to search for outstanding people to fill leadership roles.

My most successful recruits were not identified by traditional executive search firms or a formal recruiting processes, but rather by tapping into my own network. This process is growing in popularity amongst women executives seeking individuals with strong networking skills, as well as general business acumen.

It’s all about fitting into the corporate culture, and sometimes chatting online or interviewing a potential recruit over a cup of coffee at Starbucks will reveal a lot more about a person.

My tips for aspiring female executives

Having a thriving career while maintaining a healthy family life is a balancing act for everyone, and for women in particular. I agree with Hillary Clinton — the first step is having a partner and support system that really understand and assist you in every way.

I call our family support system “Team Brown,” based on how we are able to come together in a unified, cooperative manner.

I also strongly encourage women to strive for a healthy work and personal life integration. The “Team Brown” approach makes it possible for us to blend our work, family and social life.  Here are a few of the things I do to have it all work seamlessly:

  • Always on Like many executives, my job is 24/7 and I am always “plugged in.” I embrace this mesh of work and personal time versus setting strict barriers to separate the two.  One of the things that works well for me is to meld professional and personal activities. For example, I recently interviewed a woman in Napa Valley for a C-level position on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Team Brown decided to make a day of it. While I interviewed, my family spent the afternoon at a local park. Later in the day, my husband and I fit in a wine tour.
  • Choose your industry carefully Before going in head first, take some time and do thorough research; know what you are getting yourself into regarding the demands of time, energy and travel.  To ensure success, make sure you are comfortable with the expectations of the industry before you step in.
  • The right partner is crucial Having an understanding partner is critical to attaining work/life balance.  Team Brown really does take a team, but my husband stands out as my biggest advocate and strongest supporter. It’s my top priority to play that role for him as well.
  • The 7-minute commuteMinimizing commuting time throughout my career has enabled me to maximize available moments with my family whether it is a school play or just dinner time.

Sonya Brown - Norwest Venture PartnersSonya Brown is a General Partner at Norwest Venture Partners focusing on growth equity investments across a wide range of sectors, including information services, software, business services, financial services and consumer. 

She has been in the investment business for more than a decade, working with some amazing female executives , including the CEOs and Founders of Bailey 44, ModCloth, Physicians Formula, Airborne Health, Sparta Systems, The Rainmaker Group and Alarm Capital Alliance.  Sonya is also the proud mother of four children.

Top image via Shutterstock

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