In our continuing series for this week, in honor of #IWD2022, we asked Sweta Patel, Startup Advisor and Founder of Healveda, American author, content marketer, speaker, who is also currently offering her expertise as the Marketing Lead at Termii about her work, what gender equality means to her, and how she is breaking the bias in the tech ecosystem.
Going back to your early career decisions, can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What factors influenced you to this particular career path?
I didn’t really have a support system growing up and I was originally going to go into the medical field to make my family happy.
I realized during that experience — because I had my own trajectory of health setbacks throughout my career, I was just not going to allow those to define me.
I knew I was creative, I knew I was great at communicating and I had to be in a career where I can articulate people’s messages really well and connect people in a way that no one else can and that was marketing.
Originally, you know, social media was great because I just had a really good thing for tech and then, tech was something that I could do in my sleep, but somehow marketing really appealed to me. That’s where I got my start and that’s how I kept just climbing up this ladder.
I had also built my own business and it didn’t do well. I learned a lot from it, I learned how to hire, who to hire. I learned how to market and what was important in a business, and then I worked for many of the start-ups in Silicon Valley, so, that helped a lot as well.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you began leading your company?
Something really interesting that happened was the story of, you know, never giving up.
I mean, we go through these obstacles and there were times where I’m just like, everything should just go in the towel because a lot of people work for results and I just saw everything not going well.
Like I thought it was a sign because I wasn’t hiring the right people.
We weren’t meeting our revenue marks, we weren’t getting the sales and we were just not having a great culture and I thought, you know, all these are a sign that this company should not exist.
And it was the fact that I was really focused on the results and attaining those results really, more so than the mission and how I was helping others.
When I made that shift, it really shifted the perspective and how I lead and how happy people were in the company.
Is there anyone, in particular, you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you tell me a little about that?
Unfortunately, you know, some people in life have amazing support systems growing up. I, on the other hand, had a lot of people I didn’t want to be like. I had a lot of people that we’re not great models, but you know, they all served me in a way that I understood what I needed to be a good leader and what someone would look for.
I had leaders in my life that didn’t want to see me rise. I had leaders that slaved me. I had people that were wishing on my downfall.
And all these things, however, really fueled my strength and just made me a stronger person.
So I think, sometimes in life we don’t have great leaders and great people to look up to that we’re grateful for, but we do learn from the people that are not the models in life as well which make us stronger and fuel our strength and our goals.
According to this report, the share of global startups with at least one female founding member is only about 20%, which only shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience, what do you think is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Definitely coming from a place like Silicon Valley, I see that a lot of women enter the space, they have this ambition, but then they’re turned down there, they have a harder bar to reach than the man.
And, I see this gap all the time where it’s like, I pitched to hundreds of investors and they were not invested, but when somebody like a male, it’s a different story.
This gender gap, you know, is so wide still and people don’t believe it, People think that there is equality, but really there isn’t, and it takes so much out of a female to lead a company and not be frowned upon then, say the counterparts.
So I think, a lot of it has to do with the fact that, some come from like traditional environments where the man is the breadwinner and others like they’re still setting the bar a lot higher for a woman than a male when it comes to like the salary gap, the founder gap, investment, all of that, are factors I feel are holding women back.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government to help overcome these obstacles?
I think what can be done is having more females get funded, having more females given resources to be able to excel with their trajectory, not making it so difficult for them to start a company, to get the help they need to get the mentorship.
You know, when it comes to women, they feel a lot of competition against competitiveness, against one another. Whereas the males, you know, are just like, ‘oh we’re bros, we’re friends, we’re going to help each other out.’
So it’s a different sort of environment that a female enters and to understand and navigate that Jungle requires a different sense of determination, which not many have.
Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder in the tech space?”
The number one thing is that never giving up attitude, like no matter what happens, you cannot throw it in the towel — you’ve got to keep going! I’ve seen so many people, you know, they don’t get sales, they have problems and they don’t think like a problem solver, they think about giving up, so shifting that mindset from giving up to being a problem solver is the first thing.
The second thing is always seeing eye to eye with everyone and not seeming like you’re above everyone and everyone else is below you because that creates a lot of hostility in an environment and it creates a lot of problems where people are feeling demotivated to see a company rise because you don’t want to see them shine. So do whatever you can to see other people shine.
The third thing is, you know, people are only going to be as loyal to you as you are to them. Of course, there’s that in many workplaces, people can get fired at any time and they are at-will employees, which creates this sense of like ‘why should I be loyal to a company that isn’t loyal to me?’ So you want to build that loyalty from the ground up in your company. People love where they work and they don’t feel like they’re working a single day in their life.
The fourth thing is that always hire based on chemistry and not like a skill set or industry knowledge because I’ve seen many companies hire based on industry knowledge and they failed every single time, because industry knowledge is easier to learn, but being focused on the chemistry and how you get along with someone is a different ballgame.
The fifth thing here is, always have the ‘taking-no-for-an-answer’ attitude because throughout my trajectory, I had a lot of people tell me a lot of things were not possible and I just didn’t believe them, and I was willing to go all the way to the end until I found an answer. A lot of people would not go as far as you know, I did to really find solutions. So there are solutions out there, it depends on if you’re a seeker or not. You know, knowledge will find you if you are willing to seek it out.
And I’ve seen it happen many times