By Melody Wilding
Having the support of a strong community can mean the difference between success and failure for many entrepreneurs, especially female founders who remain underrepresented in tech.
The concept of shine theory — coined by “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast hosts Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow — is one tangible way that female entrepreneurs can support each other while growing their collective visibility. As Friedman said in a 2013 article about why powerful women make great friends, “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” In essence, supporting the women around you is far better than competing with them.
Friedman credits her best friend, Amina, as the source of this piece of wisdom, and her willingness to give credit where credit is due is an integral aspect of shine theory. This strategy, known as amplification, was successfully employed by female White House aides to U.S. President Barack Obama.
In an environment where women’s voices can easily be drowned out, they repeated each other’s suggestions to make sure they were heard. And whenever they discussed ideas originated by other women, they amplified them, preventing others from claiming them or forgetting that women were making significant contributions.
Why shine theory matters for female founders
According to our recent report, “Mapping Victoria’s Startup Ecosystem,” Victoria is leading the way when it comes to turning startups into high-value, high-growth companies. Approximately 30 percent of founders in Victoria are women (up from 25% in 2017), and Australian Small Business Commissioner Kate Carnell says, thanks to more visible role models, female participation in entrepreneurship is on the rise.
Felicity Zadro is the founder of Zadro Agency, a communications business in Surrey Hills. Her approach, which is rooted in creating a culture of openly sharing, learning, and celebrating, is a stellar example of shine theory in action. “Mentoring and teaching people how to fish is really key for me,” she says. “The most important thing for me is the culture that I’ve created at Zadro is really about sharing and learning from each other. We celebrate our wins, we call people out and say ‘You’ve done a great job, well done’.”