Mar 31, 2021 - News

Female business leaders in Denver on the obstacles they've overcome

Three female executives

Jessica Billingsley, image courtesy of Akerna; Kaci Taylor, Image courtesy of Kaci Taylor; Alice Jackson, Image courtesy of Xcel Energy

To mark Women’s History Month, we asked some of the women leading top local companies in male-dominated industries to talk about the obstacles they've overcome and their advice to others.

Here's what they shared:

Jessica Billingsley, CEO of cannabis-focused software company Akerna:

  • Obstacle: securing funding. "I do not have any male peers in the industry who had to wait so long or be profitable before securing equity financing. Since then, I successfully led Akerna to be the first cannabis technology company listed on the NASDAQ — ahead of my male peers."
  • Advice: network, network, network! It’s important to make connections anywhere you can. "We need to work together to keep each other actively engaged in the workforce."

Kaci Taylor, founder of architecture firm THE5WH:

  • Obstacle: being an African American woman. "My intersectional experience causes a constant struggle in proving my education, my experience, and my worth to employers, clients, and even co-workers, all because of my gender and ethnicity."
  • Advice: know your profession inside and out, and never stop learning — "so that when your competency is questioned by others, not only will you have the answers, but more importantly, you know you can tackle any challenge that comes your way."

Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy:

  • Obstacle: a combination of being female and young in a highly technical field. "This meant I had to establish my credibility repeatedly versus being given the benefit of the doubt that I knew what I was talking about."
  • Advice: show respect for everyone and practice self-forgiveness. "When you show others respect, you can walk away from any interaction with your head held high."

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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