Women in Tech: “Unconscious bias is a real, continuous problem.”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Three years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Chloe Alpert, CEO and Co-founder of Medinas, Inc.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Three years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Chloe Alpert, CEO and Co-founder of Medinas, Inc.
Chloe Alpert is the CEO and Co-founder of Medinas, Inc, whose mission is to help reduce a portion of the $765bn in yearly US healthcare waste through its technology-driven asset management and remarketing software for hospitals. In its first 18 months, Medinas has helped hospitals save over $70M in sales equivalency to date and divert over 33,000 lbs of equipment from landfills.
In 2019, Chloe won the $1 million grand prize at the Global Creator Awards Finals and in 2018 she won the $360k grand prize at the Regional San Francisco Creator Awards. Chloe also won the 2017 $500k Forbes Under 30 Global Change The World Competition and was named to the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Healthcare list. She’s also a co-founder of the Women’s Founder Community, the largest online community for women entrepreneurs.
What first got you interested in tech?
When I was six years old, my mother got Adobe Photoshop on her office computer and showed me how to do a few things. It ended up being the perfect creative outlet that also got me using the computer. I built up those skills over the years, expanding to the entire creative suite, including Dreamweaver and Flash where I started to “program” in Actionscript. In middle school, my technology education teacher noticed I was extremely good with computers, so they got me involved in an after school program called “Technology Student Association,” which really fostered my interest in computers and technology.
How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?
I always knew I was going to be an entrepreneur. My mother was an entrepreneur and started a business with me when I was a kid. It was an online soap retailer with two stores. I grew up working in the family businesses and always had a problem-solving mindset. I was pretty lucky that my formative years included a strong woman like my mother because I never had any thoughts that I “couldn’t” do something as a woman. When I did encounter real sexism and bias in the world, I was better equipped to deal with it.
Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?
Entrepreneurship is lonely. Unless they’ve been there before, people can’t really empathize with what you’re going through, and startups are often victim to social tides. If things are going well, everyone wants to be around you, but the second things go wrong, they vanish. My mother is definitely one of my role models, as well as Dame Steve Shirley. She built a 100% women-run programming company (Xansa) in the 1960s. She even changed her name to go by Steve so men would be tricked into taking her meetings. Steve didn’t let bias hold her back, she figured out how to push through it.
I was pretty lucky that my formative years included a strong woman like my mother because I never had any thoughts that I “couldn’t” do something as a woman.
Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
Yes, I’ve had an investor tell me that he couldn’t mentor me because I was a woman and he didn’t want to worry about something going wrong.
A day in Chloe’s life
Today I am the CEO of Medinas Health, which is a cloud-based asset management and reselling platform for hospitals. We help hospitals effectively manage their inventory, and enable them to resell their used clinical assets safely, quickly and effectively. My typical workday starts with waking up around 6 am, and I usually immediately respond to emails and important messages. From there I try to get a workout in and shower, eventually getting to the office by around 8:30 am. The rest of the day is a flurry of meetings and work until about 8-9 pm. Then I’ll head home, read a book and go to sleep. Sometimes I’ll have a business dinner and head out for that, but otherwise, I’m working 12- hour days.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Overcoming failure. My first venture-backed startup failed miserably and it put me into debt and deep depression. Four years later I’ve completely dug myself out of that hole financially and emotionally and am now working on a company with amazing co-founders. I can honestly say I am excited to go to work every day.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
I think it’s a mix of interests and societal pressure. I was lucky that my creative side found an outlet in technology, but it could very well have been painting or drawing or some other medium. In addition, tech still isn’t the friendliest place for women. I’ve seen it get much better in the last five years thanks to women like Susan Fowler speaking out, but tech still has a long way to go before women will truly be able to flourish.
Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?
Unconscious bias is a real, continuous problem. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into a room and an investor thinks one of my male co-founders is the CEO. In addition, there aren’t that many women in senior roles in tech, so it’s difficult for women to find women mentors. Most–if not all–of my mentors are male, and I’m grateful for them. However, they can’t necessarily relate to some of the biases I have to overcome.
Would our world be different if more women were working in STEM?
The world would absolutely be a better place. Studies show that diverse boards consistently outperform companies with all-male boards. Women represent 50% of the population and bring perspective to the table that can help reveal critical game-changing insights. More women in STEM means more women have a seat at the table, which can help set the course of a company’s path.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into a room and an investor thinks one of my male co-founders is the CEO.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
I think it comes in waves. I have opportunities today because of the women who came before me. Now it’s my turn to carry the torch and do my best to take another step forward so I can build a better future for the women who come after me.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?
The best time to start is now. The best way to break into tech is to start building a network in the tech space. Speak to as many people as possible to figure out a direction for your career. Once you have a clear direction, there are a lot of great programs that can help build the technical skills to enable you to break into the tech space.
More Women in Tech:
- Women in Tech: “If no one gives you the right possibility to grow, you must create it alone.”
- Women in Tech: “There are opportunities for remote work women could tap into”
- Women in tech: “Feel brave applying for that job you want”
- Women in tech: “Don’t forget that your career will evolve.”
- Women in Tech: “Be the positive inspiration for someone else!”