It’s clear to anyone working in the startup or tech world that women remain the minority in technical or founder roles. A recent report conducted by CrunchBase noted that 14,341 U.S.-based startups received funding during 2009-2014. However, only 2,226 had at least one female founder (15.5%). Yet, while the number of female founders appears to be low during these years, an increase in the number of women entrepreneurs has actually been noted. According to the same CrunchBase report, “in 2009, 9.5% of startups had at least one woman founder, but by 2014 that rate had almost doubled to 18%.”
Women Founders Rising to the Challenge
Fortunately, I was reminded of the rise in female entrepreneurship during The Boss League networking event that recently took place in San Francisco. The Boss League is an intimate network of powerful women from tech, healthcare, finance, and other key verticals across Silicon Valley. The goal behind Boss League is to bring like-minded women together, in order to support one another and exchange ideas to encourage innovation.
I acquired many valuable takeaways during the Boss League networking event, and left with a greater understanding of why more women are currently jumping onboard the entrepreneurship bandwagon. Here are three reasons why:
#1) Women are connecting with other women
One of the main reasons behind the recent rise in women leaders is that more women are uniting together to help others achieve their goals. One of the Boss Leagues’ primary objectives is to, “connect as many boss ladies together to help them achieve extraordinary things.”
I learned firsthand that sitting in a room full of accomplished women is not only extremely encouraging, but also helpful for other females. For instance, if you are a female startup founder seeking help with marketing, you most likely will be able to find a marketing guru present at these types of networking events. And, as most of us in the startup world know, making connections and asking others for help in a certain area of expertise is extremely valuable.
Female entrepreneur and Boss League member, Julia Li, shared her thoughts on the value women can bring to other women, stating,
There is evidence – both statistical and analytical – that having more women in leadership roles advances organizations overall. Through Boss League, we want to encourage and empower women to thrive in their individual spaces, both personally and professionally. Making these connections is just the start.”
#2) More female focused VC funds
Believe it or not, there has been a recent increase in female-focused VC funds. BBG Ventures, for example, is a female focused VC fund that actively seeks out women entrepreneurs. A TechCrunch article featured an interview with the founder of BBG Ventures, Susan Lyne. When asked about the importance of female focused VCs, Lyne mentioned that,
Most people are comfortable with either companies or entrepreneurs that look like them, so even though I’ve yet to meet a guy who doesn’t say ‘I’m really happy you’re doing this’ — and a lot of them are fathers of daughters so they have a rooting interest in it being fixed — there’s a difference between having a rooting interest and actively addressing how you’re going to fix it.”
That being said, VC funds that actively seek out female entrepreneurs are yet another source of encouragement for more women to become startup founders, and is becoming a huge motivating factor that has led to more female founders and women getting involved in the startup arena.
#3) More women are fighting back against sexism
I recently attended, “In Conversation with Exceptional Women,” an event hosted by Elle Magazine. A select group of women founders gathered at this event to share their experiences building and managing a company. Ruzwana Bashi, CEO and Co-Founder of Peek.com, gave a fireside chat and briefly mentioned that males VCs do not take women founders as seriously when they come “dressed up” for meetings. Apparently, jeans and t-shirts is the norm for women founders in the tech industry, and dressing up will only encourage “sexist behavior”.
It’s sad but true, a numerous amount of women in the startup/tech world encounter their fair share of sexism. It’s not easy being the minority, but women who wish to succeed in this area must stand their ground and fight back. In fact, women who tend to be the most successful in the startup industry are the ones who stand up against sexism.
Mylea Charvat, Founder and CEO of Savonix, has experienced her fair share of sexism simply due to the fact that she is a female entrepreneur. When asked about her experiences, Mylea stated,
It’s true that a few men in the investment community don’t have good boundaries. Perhaps the most stunning example of this in my own experience was a man that was introduced to me as a potential investor for my company. He lead his comments with, “you are so beautiful,” and proceeded to hit on me. It was deeply uncomfortable and I think when I was 25 I might have laughed or tried to brush it off. Now, at 42 and more confident, I said to him that obviously he did not understand the nature of our relationship and that he was introduced to me for a business opportunity, not a sexual opportunity. And yes, I was that blunt – you have to be – being subtle doesn’t work in my experience. He apologized, but I didn’t follow up to pursue having him invest. We are 60% to closing this round and it is hard as most investors are men, but you keep working and you find good partners. In fact, most of the men I have pitched have been professional, even if they don’t opt in, and many have been supportive and helpful including our stellar advisors and investor such as Peter Newell, David Cooper and Jonas Lamis.”
The Future Looks Bright
The amount of women entrepreneurs are still low in comparison to their male counterparts, yet there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. More women coming together to help others are resulting in a rise in female leaders. This combined with female backed VC funds and standing up again sexism are all encouraging women to take charge and build their own companies.
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