This group is where women leading startups learn from each other

The monthly meetings of TEDCO's Women's Executive Leadership Roundtable help execs deal with business challenges — gender-specific and otherwise — alongside peers.

Joni Daniels (left) speaks on a panel with members of the Women's Executive Leadership Roundtable during #BIW18.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Once a month, a group of 18 women founders and execs meet at TEDCO’s offices in Columbia. They talk about what’s happened in the last month, and the resources that they’ve encountered as they build a business. Then they dig into a topic, whether it’s sales, or financing. Sometimes there is a speaker or panel discussion, but it’s not for the purpose of selling a product.

“It’s driven by what the group needs,” said Joni Daniels, management development consultant and leader of Daniels and Associates, who serves as the facilitator of the group, now in its fifth year.

The Women’s Executive Leadership Roundtable is a free program offered by TEDCO, the quasi-public Maryland agency that was created to back tech companies. It’s an example of one of the programs funds to support founders in addition to the investment capital TEDCO provides. In all, TEDCO convenes eight roundtable groups, and this is one of a couple that are specifically reaching out to underserved groups.

The roundtable started in 2014 as TEDCO sought to create “a place where women could create a community of executive leaders in the tech startup sector,” Daniels said.

Among the members are leaders of plenty of startups you’ve read about on, including Rendia, Nest Collaborative, Milemarker, Lokalphoto, Lessoncast and RedShred. To date, 34 women have taken part in the women’s roundtable, and “we have new members all the time,” Daniels said.


While all members are women who hold C-level roles at startups, the membership spans industries, experience, cities around the state and age/demographic groups. That results in an environment where there can be plenty to learn from each other, as folks with lots of chances to share things like, “‘Here’s what you want to watch out for,’ ‘Here’s what I would ask,’ or ‘Based on what you were telling me, this would be my concern,'” she said.

(Such affinity groups are common in the nonprofit world, too.)

The group is primarily oriented toward moving companies forward, and tackling challenges — largely those related to building a business. That journey can also be lonely.

Daniels said the group aims to offer an environment where it’s okay to be open about challenges and getting answers to questions: “If you don’t talk to other people in that sector, you think you’re the only one,” she said.

In a field that’s notoriously male-dominated, that can be exacerbated when women don’t see other women speaking on panels or see fewer in attendance at networking events.

“There are some issues that women have to deal with that men just don’t,” Daniels said. “They just don’t.”

Companies: TEDCO
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