NEW YORK CITY—“The world needs more girl builders,” displays the website of #BUILTBYGIRLS (#BBG), an organization that gives girls a leg-up in tech careers, and encourages them to be “the protagonists in their own lives” whilst lessening the massive gender gap in one of society’s rising industries.
Danielle Letayf, the Program & Community Manager of #BUILTBYGIRLS , orchestrates the #BUILTBYGIRLS Girls Who Fund program, an internship that enables high school girls to find out what it’s like to both be a founder and an investor at a VC (venture capitalist firm). Girls Who Fund stems from BBG Ventures—a venture fund focused on investing in companies with at least one female founder. Founded by Susan Lyne and Nisha Dua, BBG Ventures addresses the need for more women in the startup scene.
Lyne and Dua realized that after releasing BBG Ventures, the next thing that needed to be addressed was how to teach young women to navigate their way into the sphere of venture capital. With less than 10% of venture funding going to female founders, and only 4% of VC decision makers/partners being women, it’s quite an intimidating, male-dominated sphere to work a woman’s way into. Thus, Girls Who Fund was born.
Danielle, the aforementioned program manager of Girls Who Fund, comes up with ideas and manages logistics in order to make Girls Who Fund the best experience possible for young women who wish to enter the startup scene.
“What I do is come up with the idea (of course with the help of my team), do all of the logistics, the planning, and the execution. When we have girls, I manage them. That’s kind of my job from day-to-day,” said Danielle.
Managing the two-part summer program sure isn’t an easy feat; but with the help of Danielle’s team, they’re able to create a summer internship that’s half on startups, and the other on venture capital (which both go hand-in-hand).
Collaborating with some of the top VCs in NYC, the girls selected for the program are able to learn from the experts themselves.
When asked about what it’s like to work with girls with such grit and passion for technology, Danielle said, “It has been incredible. I came into this job with no knowledge of coding, but with a huge passion for technology and having women in the workplace in technology. These girls have really shown me this sort of mindset that you can literally create anything with code and that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be something that you consider to be very technical.”
Danielle elaborated by citing “Call Me,” a piece of hardware created by a group of #BUILTBYGIRLS interns for the annual TechCrunch Hackathon in San Francisco. “Call Me” let its user push a button to call their phone, enabling him/her to escape an awkward date or situation.
Along the journey of building and designing #BUILTBYGIRLS programs, Danielle has found role models in women in which she finds inspiration. Susan Lyne of BBG Ventures is one of them.
“I don’t necessarily work with her directly a lot, but I observe a lot of what she does and I think she handles a lot of situations very well—especially as a woman who is in a male dominated world who has created a space for herself,” said Danielle.
Other strong women that Danielle looks up to are her mother, grandmother, and actress Amy Poehler (whose blog entitled “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls” featured BBG Ventures last October in an article by Tribly Beresford).
Regardless of the perks of AOL office space and trips across NYC, Danielle’s driving force for #BUILTBYGIRLS simmers down to one thing: tapping the potential of young women in technology.
Danielle said, “All these girls have such energy and such passion, and no two girls are the same. It’s really a beautiful thing when you step back and the girls meet each other and come up with so many different ideas, because there are so many kinds of girls and so many kinds of interests. I think that’s really what makes #BBG so great. You don’t have to have experience, you just have to have to want to learn and the second that they’re put in that position of learning, magical things happen.”
Photos are taken from the BBG Instagram.
Danielle Letayf graduated cum laude from the Boston University School of Management. She is the Program & Community Manager of #BUILTBYGIRLS and operates its girl-powered Instagram account.