On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the potential of women and girls everywhere, and their ideas and innovations that are shaping our future. March is also Women’s History Month in the United States. Introduced in the late 1980s, this month is a celebration of the numerous, but often overlooked, accomplishments by women across history, culture and society. This is a time to reflect — and keep working to close equity gaps.
We know that companies with more diversity generate more innovation and better financial results. Yet less than 2% of enterprise software startups in the U.S. feature a women founder. The COVID-19 pandemic has — and will continue to — disproportionately affect women across the globe, with the time it will take to close the global gender gap increasing by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.
The data is staggering and calls for action.
At Microsoft, our goal is to create and maintain a healthy ecosystem where all employees, partners and customers can thrive. We work with purpose and passion to enable inclusive economic opportunity through the Microsoft commercial marketplace and in our Microsoft partner and startup ecosystem.
Highlighting diverse partner businesses in the commercial marketplace
To help support the growth of diverse businesses within our partner ecosystem, we’re enabling partners to self-attest relevant diversity business classifications in Partner Center. By building this information into our system, it’s easy for customers to discover women-led businesses and their solution offerings in the commercial marketplace and through our co-sell channels.
Supporting the U.N. to empower women across the globe
As a partner to the United Nations, Microsoft has pledged to support its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 initiatives adopted by member states in 2015 focused on creating a more inclusive, sustainable and equitable world by 2030.
Through the Microsoft #BuildFor2030 Initiative, we support SDG 5: achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. We partner with community organizations, like Women in Cloud (WIC), an organization focused on acting with global leaders, corporations and policymakers to help women entrepreneurs create $1 billion in economic access and opportunity by 2030.
Through the WIC accelerator, Microsoft supports women entrepreneurs in building and publishing their solutions to the commercial marketplace. We are proud to celebrate these women-led businesses and their innovative solutions that are driving positive business and community impact, such as:
eKidz.eu: Their educational solution helps parents and educators teach German, English and Spanish to children. Realizing the importance of helping people stay connected to their roots while raising trilingual children, co-creator and CEO Nataliya Tetruyeva set out to create more accessible, personalized language learning. The mobile app leverages artificial intelligence (AI), audio support and visual animation to nurture language development skills like listening, learning, speaking and written expression.
Advocat Technologies: Their solution, Advocat AI, is a conversation-driven, AI-enabled platform that helps make it faster and easier to create and manage legal contracts for in-house legal teams and business users alike. Advocat Founder and CEO Pradnya Desh is a legal advisor and former U.S. diplomat seeking to enable effective business practices that support companies, communities and individuals.
Supporting women founders in the end-to-end startup journey
Startups play a pivotal role in a thriving ecosystem, and often are the impetus that push everyone else forward. Despite being vital to innovation and growth, by some estimates, more than 90% of startups will go out of business in their first year, meaning women-founded businesses are fighting an uphill battle.
Earlier this year, we launched a global mentoring program to pair women employees at Microsoft with women founders of startups in the Microsoft for Startups Founder Hub. This new program includes reoccurring safe space talks, monthly role model conferences, and access to VC and investor master classes — and all members of the Hub have access to $150,000 of Microsoft Azure. The Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub is open to anyone with an idea, and we’re seeing an influx of diverse founders including women-led organizations come through.
For example, SciMar ONE, a Microsoft for Startups and Women in Cloud accelerator partner, is using AI technology to speed innovation in drug development through their project management solution, The Scientific Data Engine. A women-owned business, SciMar ONE shifts the time-consuming tasks of clinical data analytics from humans to technology, driving cost savings in R&D.
And Time to Raise helps women founders in Nordic countries with their fundraising journeys from master classes, pitching sessions hosted by Microsoft Reactor, Female Founder networking events supported by Microsoft for Startups to matchmaking connections with participating investors and more.
Speaking of Microsoft Reactor, it partners regularly with ChickTech, an American nonprofit organization empowering people of marginalized genders through tech programs and events. Microsoft Reactor also partners with Women in Data to host collaborative content and events, all with the aim of connecting developers and startups who share the same goals.
Learn more about the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub and sign up to get the support you need to run your business.
Empowering girls to follow their interests in STEM
The path to a career in tech is different for everyone. However, exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning paths and encouragement to follow one’s interests is critical, especially for those who identify as girls.
We recognize that tomorrow’s tech talent are today’s students, and that’s why we work with Girls Who Code, TechTogether, and IGNITE (Inspiring Girls Now in Technology Evolution). These organizations are actively and tirelessly inspiring girls to follow their dreams and helping them gain skills across a gamut of technology paths. And the Microsoft DigiGirlz program is our in-house program that offers middle- and high schoolers opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops.
Historically, girls haven’t had the same level of encouragement to pursue careers in STEM as boys — and that must change. Fostering tomorrow’s talent is a critical component to growing women’s presence in technology.
What you can do
Both International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month remind us to take stock and raise up girls and women. I invite you to join me in supporting women tech entrepreneurs and helping to grow their businesses. What this means looks different to everyone. Here are two ways you can learn how to help women in tech:
Join Women in Cloud and participate in their community engagement opportunities to gain experience, build your network and find ways to support economic access for women.
And register for the May 6 #WICxMicrosoft Lunch and Learn session where I’ll be the keynote speaker for a session about empowering access and driving inclusive economic opportunity.
Though we’re talking specifically about women’s impact in tech, the equity gaps that exist are not solely the responsibility of women to solve. Everyone has a stake in this effort, and it takes all of us to continue to make progress. Through our collective action, we can grow and support diverse representation in our partner and startup ecosystem together.
 Diversity during COVID-19 still matters | McKinsey
 How diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) matter | McKinsey
 Female Founders in Short Supply at Enterprise Tech Startups – WSJ
 Global Gender Gap Report 2021 | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)
 How Many Startups Fail and Why? (Investopedia.com)