female tech leaders sitting in chairs talking

Navigating the Tech Industry as a Female CEO

In Blog by Kristin Patterson

female tech leaders sitting in chairs talking

Our Head of Marketing suggested that I write a post on being a woman tech leader for Women’s History Month. My knee-jerk reaction was to list excuses about why I would not.  

We should focus our content on the business.  We need business.   

I’m in back-to-back meetings all week.  

A more important fire drill popped up.  

But the *real* excuses were the unspoken narratives in my own head that sounded more like this.  

No one wants to hear from me.  

I don’t deserve to claim this space.  

Or even better…

I will write those sorts of posts when our business reaches some arbitrary milestone – a liquidity event, a writeup in the WSJ, or a grand public success along these lines.  Because *only then* will it be appropriate for me to stake claim to the title of ‘tech CEO’ publicly and feel deserving.

Therein lies the problem.  Twenty years of rising through the ranks of leadership across several great tech companies has consistently taught me that posts of this nature will be viewed as self-aggrandizing.  That even though I have the job, I don’t deserve the same attention for it or I got it because of some level of serendipity vs. hard work and skill. Instead, I know that I will be viewed as more likable if I stick to the script often defined for women in leadership positions which is to be self-deprecating, humble, warm, and friendly. And, by all means, definitely stray from the appearance of anything that looks like an ego.  

My experience isn’t unique.  Mckinsey’s 2023 Women in the Workplace study shows that women are far more likely than men to engage in self-shielding behaviors in the workplace, such as toning down what they say in order to seem more likable.  Couple that with the fact that women still only make up 28% of the C-Suite overall, and only 10.9% of C-Suite / Senior Leadership jobs in tech. It starts to frame what initially felt like a personal experience for me as one that is systemic and gender-bound.   

Okay, fine, I’ll write the post on what being a tech CEO means to me.  Here it goes.

Being a CEO of any tech startup means you wake up every day to do a job and approach a market in a way that no one ever has before.  The challenge here for anyone, with any gender identity, cannot be understated.  

But in doing this job as a woman, you’re not only doing a job that’s never been done before, but you’re also doing it while navigating the circumstances of expectations around you.  You will likely be judged more harshly for mistakes than your male counterparts. You may be held to behavioral standards men in your same position are not. There are 30 additional characteristics people will pay attention to in you that they likely wouldn’t in your male counterparts. And, you may have your role because of the glass cliff phenomenon which says women are more likely to be put in leadership roles in a crisis when the chance of failure is higher.   


So my experience of being a woman tech leader is, well…that it’s hard.  Not only because I am working hard in the role, but I am expected to be excessively vulnerable, approachable, and open with my team and clients.  I spend time mentally mapping the nuances of how I should show up constantly.  And, the pressure extends beyond the workplace and into the other areas of my life where my partner and I have very much flipped the division of labor and traditional gender roles around.  That’s another post entirely.  

But here’s the thing…It’s also this experience of navigating the ingrained difficulties of becoming a female tech leader that becomes my biggest advantage because helping artists take up space and own their craft is exactly what we ask artists to do every single day at Live Bash.  

You’ve never had access to a stage before?  You’ve never had someone invest in you to produce a show or piece of content?  Your label has not given you the advocacy and support you need to grow your career?  You’ve talked about playing at venues but they don’t want to offer you the flexibility, creativity, or the pay you deserve?  I deeply understand this experience.

At Live Bash we coach artists and content creators from all genres and all levels of popularity to bring their art to more fans and create new ways to engage.  We’re making the tools and ecosystems that used to be available to a few, available to many.  We’re building software that helps creators claim ownership and get credit, indisputably and immutably.  

When I step back and reflect on my experience, I can certainly say there is much more work to be done for gender equity in the workplace, especially in tech.  But I also believe that today’s generation of female leaders are bringing in a depth of experience and approach, pushing technology forward, and using those resources and tech to advocate better equality to all spaces.

So here’s to Women’s History Month—a time to honor the past, celebrate the present and shape the future with unwavering determination to live boldly.  A day to remind ourselves that when we stick to the script handed to us by society, we miss out on the opportunity to write our own empowering narratives.   A day to take up space, to dream big, and to write the dang post.

Kristin Patterson “KP”