I was recently in a conversation about the scarcity of female CEO’s and the imbalance is staggering. At the start of 2009 there were only 13 women counted among the ranks of Fortune 500 CEO’s. However, in the world of mass customization women have founded and/or lead a much higher percentage of the market leading companies.
Maxine Clark has built the Build-A-Bear Workshop into a publicly traded fixture of malls around the world. It is an incredibly impressive business owning a third of the $1.5B plush toy market barely a decade after its introduction and is the most successful mass customization business since Dell.
The world of 3D printing has been shaped extensively by female leaders. Marina Hatsopoulos was the founding CEO of 3D printer manufacturer ZCorp. Cathy Lewis is the CEO of Desktop Factory and has done a great job getting the $5,000 3D printer close to production (hopefully the fundraising situation will be finalized soon). Adina Shorr was the CEO of Objet Geometries until April 2009 and oversaw the commercialization of the bulk of their portfolio.
In the bootstrapped world women are also very active. Limor Freid is the Founder of AdaFruit Industries, makers of kit based electronics packages. Meredith Garniss founded Willoughby and Baltic, a fast growing Hacker Space in Boston. Lenore Edman is one half of the Evil Mad Scientist Labs team makers of a sweet 3D printer, the CandyFab 6000.
I don’t know if there is any particular explanation for the relatively high number of women CEO’s in the customization market, but they are all doing an amazing job making mass customization a reality.