In San Francisco, Melody McCloskey stands out as a rare woman in the land of tech start-ups. She has raised some $14 million in venture capital for StyleSeat, an online booking platform for salon professionals that she founded in 2011 along with Dan Levine, a developer. Today, some 260,000 stylists use the platform, and the company employs 31 people.
But Ms. McCloskey’s career in tech was nearly derailed in 2002, back when she was a high school student in suburban San Francisco and she took an advanced placement course in computer science, something of an introduction to coding. “I have always loved computers and I’ve always loved tech,” she said. “I was really excited about it.”
Ms. McCloskey, who studied ballet until growing too tall, brought a dancer’s discipline to her studies. “The coursework wasn’t harder than any of my other A.P. courses,” she said. “But I was the only woman in the class.” And right away, she said, “there was all this tension and attention present because of that. All the guys either wanted to talk to me or didn’t want me to be there.”
As an adult, she might have been able to handle that, but as a high school student, she said, “it added extra pressure that I didn’t feel in any of my other classes.” Ultimately, she decided to drop the course — and tech all together, at least for a while. She majored in international relations and French at the University of California, Davis, where she said a counselor advised her to pursue public relations: “You’re a girl — you have great social skills.” <Read more.>