If you are a loyal reader of our site, you have no doubt already come across many articles about the cultural shift to encourage more women to take up jobs in the technology sector. When we think of world-renowned tech luminaries, names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg immediately come to mind. Slowly we are starting to become more familiar with the likes of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki and others, but with women only making up roughly 30% of the tech world (less when you zone in on engineer and leadership positions) despite making up 51% of the US labor force, it’s clear there is a gender disparity.
Thankfully there are leading male entrepreneurs who can see this is a problem and want to change it. Many major tech companies have been honest about their dismal diversity stats with the release of diversity reports. Apple CEO Tim Cook has promised they want to be a leader in pushing for more diversity within their ranks. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has made his statement on the need for more women in the tech world in a more unusual way.
A post on his Facebook page where he outlined his 2016 resolution to build more artificial intelligence to run his home and help him juggle his business responsibilities, garnered an interesting comment from one woman.
“I keep telling my grand daughters to date the nerd in school, he may turn out to be Mark Zuckerberg!” wrote Darlene Hackemer Loretto.
In response, Mark said the following:
“Even better would be to encourage them to *be* the nerd in their school so they can be the next successful inventor!”
For many women, being the nerd is already a reality. Amanda Bradford is a San Francisco-based tech entrepreneur who is also the founder of a new dating app called The League. In an exclusive interview with GTHQ, she divulges about being a millennial, a woman and a leader in an area which has traditionally favored those with X and Y chromosomes.
She is attempting to revolutionize and revitalize the uber-popular dating app market at a time when there is plenty of fatigue and fear among millennial women.
We live in a great time for innovation and entrepreneurship, and someone like Amanda is the type of tech role model who we believe will one day have her name etched alongside the likes of Gates, Zuckerberg, Jobs etc, not just for her talent, but for her laser-like perspective on what it takes to overcome gender barriers, and unapologetically reach her goals in a way that will inspire other girls.
Give us an overview of your background as an entrepreneur, how did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always been obsessed with social networks and how efficient they are at meeting new people. I used bulletin boards to meet friends in other countries on Prodigy, I used AOL Chat to make friends in a new city before my parent’s had even put our house on the market, and I found my first boyfriend by messaging him on Facebook. I also grew up in a tech-obsessed household. My dad always had the latest gadget and I was using computers from a very young age. I went to Carnegie Mellon to study computer science because I wanted to be able to solve problems for myself.
You are the founder and creator of The League, a new dating app. Can you tell us what makes this one different from the likes of Tinder, Bumble, etc?
Pretty much with all the dating apps today the focus is on quantity of matches, looks, and ‘hooking up’. The League is about creating a curated community of intelligent, educated people who are seeking a modern, egalitarian relationship. We’re creating a platform that promotes relationship equality, where the users are looking for their intellectual equal, someone that will see them as a true partner and who is enlightened enough to realize the gender stereotypes present in our parent’s generation are outdated and irrelevant in today’s world. In short, our users want a partner who will support them in chasing their dreams, but will also be chasing their own.
Given that our users are busy professionals focusing on advancing their career, a critical feature is our integration with LinkedIn, which allows The League to block you from coworkers, business contacts, and Facebook friends. This integration also shows your work and education history, as we’ve seen that education and profession are very statistically significant in successful matches.
Millennial dating is a VERY hot topic right now, what made you want to create a company to serve this market?
I came up with the idea when I became single and I tried dating apps for the first time. I was frustrated by the superficiality and inefficiency of the dating apps out there today – I really wanted to know more about each person than just what they looked like. I was also frustrated by the lack of privacy. I really wanted to keep a strong separation between work and personal, especially as I was focused on advancing my career. The last thing I wanted was for my coworkers, my boss, or someone I was doing business with to stumble across my dating profile.
When dating apps suddenly became ‘normal’ for millennials, I realized how critical this would be to our generation. I saw a huge gap in the market for an app that made people feel human, respected privacy (especially from coworkers/business contacts), where users treated each other with respect, and where you actually met the kind of people that you WISHED you could meet in real life, but for one reason or another, just never crossed paths.
You are based out of San Fran which is the global mecca of all things tech. If that wasn’t enough, you are also a female startup creator which puts you in a whole other category. What are some of the experiences you have based in the industry because of your gender?
I find most investors, potential employees, and media/press assume I am not technical and that someone else built and manages the software. In fact, I am the one that wrote the initial algorithms, spec’d out the prototype and hired all the engineers, created the designs, and I am in the code day in and day out QA’ing releases and writing SQL queries.
I was recently on a panel with the Chief Data Scientist at Match and the CTO of Zoosk (both men) talking algorithms and I think the audience was surprised that I could hold my own. It frustrates me when people assume I’m just an ‘MBA’ with a powerpoint deck, a great network, with no real concept of technology. I pair code with my engineers and I make changes directly to the code-base. Now that’s not to say the engineers I’ve hired can’t all code circles around me – because they can – but I do consider myself a technical founder.
We’ve seen how apps like Bumble are focusing on putting control back in the hands of women when it comes to digital dating, and The League has it’s own unique way of empowering women in this space. Why is this important for millennial women?
What I want is to help move society towards redefining dating and letting go of antiquated gender stereotypes. To me, equalism is not forcing women to message first or to be ‘in control’. It is encouraging our users to seek intellectual equals and give them a platform that facilitates connecting based on more than just looks and attraction.
Although there seems to be a huge focus on feminism & female empowerment, there is a lot of push-back against powerful and ambitious women, which you have written about in a previous article. What will be the tipping point of changing this perception?
A powerful and ambitious women SHOULD be as sexy as a powerful and ambitious male. Unfortunately, this still isn’t always true, but The League is helping make this a reality. By pairing people up that value things like education, intelligence, and drive and who will support each other in their careers equally, we are creating role models in the community that will help us change the status quo. I think George Clooney and Amal Clooney pairing up helped our cause, as mainstream America took note. I hope to create many more power-couples like this, where the female is just as successful, if not more so, than her partner, and the men who partner with them are seen as smart, confident, and successful enough to not let outdated gender stereotypes make them feel insecure about their role in the relationship.
A recent study from the University of Buffalo, California Lutheran University and University of Texas at Austin showed that an overwhelming majority of men like the idea of a smart woman but won’t necessarily date one. Why do you think this is?
Outdated social stigmas and the fact that women achieving at an equal level to men is still a relatively new thing. We’ve found that men at the age of 30 the desire to date smart women increases significantly, and that the desire to have a truly ‘equal’ partnership is a concept that resonates more with well-educated men than less-educated men. We’ve also seen that men with higher education are more open to professions and jobs that are less traditionally ‘masculine’.
Do you think if the pressures and stereotypes on men and masculinity were changed, there would be less disdain for smart ambitious women?
Absolutely! This is not just a conversation on female empowerment, this is about equalism and getting society to dis-associating jobs and careers with a specific gender. There is a lot of programs and support for women who want to be a scientist, but not nearly enough encouragement for men who want to be a teacher or nurse.
You mention in your brilliant Linkedin piece “I’m Not An Elitist, I’m Just An Alpha Female” that the millennial generation is in a prime position to change antiquated social values when it comes to gender. How do you hope The League and your work in tech will be a part of this?
Millennials are the most highly educated U.S generation to date and we’re also the most open-minded and progressive. We have an opportunity to redefine what a “desirable female” and “desirable male” is – and what an ‘ideal relationship’ looks like – but we have to seize that opportunity (instead of letting E! brainwash us with endless Kardashians episodes).
How much do you think the visibility of women like Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Angela Ahrendts and Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani can help in breaking down stigma about powerful women in tech who also have families?
I think having them as role models to us in Silicon Valley is helpful as it shows us powerful, ambitious women can have family and a career, but I do think we have a dearth of younger, more relate-able role models on the main stage that I feel would make more of an impact on our younger generation. Visibility is crucial to breaking down stigmas. My role model when I was a 25 year old fictional computer scientist CIA agent in a Patricia Cornwell series – that’s how few role models I had.
What is your message for millennial women, whether they are in the tech space, looking to date, or not?
Take risks and always be yourself. Whether it’s landing that new job or finally starting your own business… stop talking about it and go after it. Think of how much money, time, and mental energy you invest in your education, your apartment, your wardrobe, your TV shows, reading, your friends, family. What if you invested 20-40% of that into your true passion? Have the confidence in yourself and other people will believe in you as well.
And finally, what makes you a powerful woman?
I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I’m also confident enough with myself to be okay with the fact that not everyone will like me. Speaking up is hard, and there will also be naysayers, but having the guts to say what you think is what ultimately makes you successful.
To join The League and find out how you can be part of a game-changing dating app, click here.