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Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for women in technology

Nerd. Dork. Loser. Lesbian. 

Nerd. Dork. Loser. Lesbian.

Those are just a few of the mean-spirited put-downs some of the world’s most successful tech entrepreneurs said they heard growing up—simply because they were girls interested in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“I would just retort with, ‘First of all, being a lesbian is not an insult. Secondly, being smart or curious doesn’t make me a lesbian. What did you learn at football camp?’” said Emily Fowler, senior vice president of strategy & business development at Fix, in a conversation with Farai Chideya and Vivek Wadhwa, authors of the upcoming book Innovating Women.

Chideya and Wadhwa set out to chronicle the stories and experiences of hundreds of women leading in the technology industry. Though venture-backed companies with female executives are less likely to fail, according to a recent Dow Jones report, the percentage of companies that have a female founder dwindle in the single digits.

“Only 3% of tech firms are run by women, but women-run firms have this incredible track record,” said Chideya on msnbc Friday. “It’s somewhat shocking that in 2013, we’re still talking about gender-integrating the world of technology. But we are.”

In her research, Chideya has found that women, like Fowler, are often bullied for showing an interest in math and science at a young age. Some are able deliver the quick retorts and move on, but many girls are forever discouraged from pursuing their passion for technology.

“It’s not that young women aren’t interested, but there’s so much peer pressure,” said Chideya on Friday. “Girls trying to go into the science, technology, and math fields just give up. So what we really need to do is build a pipeline, and that’s what we’re talking about with Innovating Women.

Read more about the Innovating Women project here.