Technology: Local Web Pioneer Explains the Lack of Women in Tech Startups

Nancy Massey says she’s from “the DOS-based world.”  She said that in the 1980s, when the Disk Operating System was still widely used, working in technology was “so much simpler” in comparison to the work she’s used to doing now.

But a little complexity has never stopped her.

Nancy Massey, founder of, discusses women's role in the technology field.

“I love a mystery, and I love a challenge,” Massey said. “Even today, [working in technology] is like solving a mystery, a puzzle.”

Massey, who currently works as a Web consultant for her namesake business,, has been working for more than 30 years in Philadelphia’s technology industry – a field largely dominated by men.

“I’ve been on my own since I was in my late twenties, and back then, there was a belief that women couldn’t be taken seriously till they’re 30. So, I was 30 for about five years,” Massey said with a laugh.

In a recent post in the Wall Street Journal’s Venture Capital Dispatch blog, Dow Jones VentureSource reported women only make up 11 percent of tech start-up founders of U.S. firms with venture-capital backing.

Massey said she wasn’t surprised. She said she’s experienced an occasional “push-back” from male colleagues throughout the years, often having her opinion or authority dismissed.

“That happens in technology, but I’d guess that pretty much happens in any field,” Massey said.

When Massey first set foot in the industry, she worked as a computer and management consultant to small business and law firms. She then moved on to work with LibertyNet, one of Philadelphia’s first Web servers. serves as a vehicle for website development, especially for those catering to users with disabilities.

In 2001, she began working as the vice president of technology for the National Constitution Center during its initial planning and construction, managing 16 proprietary databases, designing the server room and organizing miles of cables that were distributed throughout the new building.

Massey said one of her most valued accomplishments was becoming a member of the World Wide Web Consortium, blazing the trail to make the Internet accessible for users with disabilities.

“What kept me going is that I could feel that the work I was doing was leaving the world a better place,” Massey said.

She said areas like technology accessibility are full of possibilities for women.

“The idea of being locked away in a room just doesn’t appeal to me. I want to look at technology and say, ‘How can we use this to improve our life, improve the world?” Massey said. “I think that women have skills and abilities to communicate in ways that many men do not and can probably be just as successful if they just look at it differently.”

The Women's MBA Network's website is one Massey's clients.

Currently, Massey serves as president of, where she works as a Web consultant specializing in organizations, federal agencies and businesses related to or dealing with disabilities.

“Philadelphia is an amazing place, and I’ve watched Philadelphia put itself on the map,” Massey said. “There are a lot of really talented bright people here, and I think [the city] needs our help and could truly benefit from what the technology field has to offer.”

She said young women who aspire to work in the tech industry should “identify your passion, whatever that subject is, and put yourself in the middle of it.

As for the potential “push-back” from male colleagues, she said women should simply not let it happen.

“You just have to move forward. In technology, we just have got to move even if we’re not quite ready. It’s almost like penicillin,” Massey said. “Amazing things can happen if you just let them.”

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