Office Hours: CNBC’s Julia Boorstin on How Female Founders Can Thrive

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

Office Hours: CNBC’s Julia Boorstin on How Female Founders Can Thrive
Photo courtesy of Julia Boorstin

On this episode of Office Hours, CNBC's Senior Media & Tech Correspondent Julia Boorstin joined host Spencer Rascoff to discuss her book “When Women Lead: What They Achieve, Why They Succeed, and How We Can Learn from Them.”


Boorstin interviewed 120 women and read 300 academic studies as she researched her new book. She was struck by the statistics: just 2% of last year’s VC funding went to female-led companies. This disparity, she said, is because the archetype people have in their minds when they think a leader is typically a white man—and they base their investments on that assumption.

“I wanted to show the variety and wide diversity of successful outcomes of women of various backgrounds who look nothing like Mark Zuckerberg,” Boorstin said.

Women have access to less capital, she said, and that has made many female founders scrappier as they make the funding they do have go farther. Boorstin said this has helped some female-led businesses thrive as VC funding dries up in difficult times.

Work culture has changed during the pandemic, with many employees seeking more flexible workplaces. Boorstin said female leaders often possess skills that can help companies engage changing employee ideals. Through her interviews with female founders, she found that many of them valued vulnerability, empathy, gratitude and communal leadership—all qualities that can help foster an environment of collaboration, rather than hierarchical authority. This mindset, she said, can set companies up for long-term success.

“I think men need to invest in figuring out how to practice these traits,” Boorstin said.

Boorstin said it is critical for male founders and CEOs to understand what successful leadership can look like. Additionally, she believes that using these skills can help companies better engage younger workers. Not only can it help improve work environments, but it can help founders and investors understand what customers are actually looking for.

“If you look at the workforce of tomorrow, look at how diverse America is, [and] look at how diverse your customers are going to be,” Boorstin said. “ No matter what your company is, you can't put your head in the sand.”

dot.la reporter Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.

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