dot.LA Summit: Women at the Top on How to Expand LA’s Tech Scene


As women in tech and venture, Kara Nortman and Robyn Ward heard a lot of nos when they started out. No we won’t fund you. No, we don’t have positions.

But, it was the yeses that kept them going.

“We have to expand the tent, we have to figure out how to continue. The tent needs to get bigger every day. If every one of us every day can find one more woman to bring into this tent, in some way it gets bigger and bigger,” Nortman said.

Tucked away at the corner of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, with a backdrop of the ocean being disrupted by the revving of car engines, the panelists took hold of their mics and loudly welcomed dozens of attendees.

Norton is the managing partner of Upfront Ventures, one of Los Angeles oldest and most prestigious venture firms. Ward is the CEO of FounderForward, a firm specializing in training and coaching for entrepreneurs and executives. Both talked to Dustin Rosen, managing partner at Wonder Ventures about what helped them rise to their position.

Ward’s has had 20-plus years experience in the technology startup space and said it has largely been one occupied by white men. But she sees that changing.

“I walked in here today and I just reveled in the amount of women, the amount of people of color, the age. It was such a diverse group here today. And that wasn’t how it was five years ago,” Ward exclaimed.

Nortman said when she and Robin first started, there were “the five guys you go to for advice or the five guys you go to who built a tech company.”

While there seems to be a rise in women entering the tech scene, statistics show that women in the industry are still grossly unrepresented. Female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high of 7.4% in 2020 according to Pew Research. And female founded startups still make up less than 3% of all those getting capital.

Rosen asked what men can do to support women and the upward trend of women in the tech industry.

“One of the ways that I would like men to think about this has to do with the culture they’re building from and actually moving beyond diversity and actually moving into inclusion,” Ward said.

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