Out of all the Fortune 500 companies, only 5% have women CEOs. Despite the abundance of talented women in the business world, the proverbial “glass ceiling” remains a challenge.
While women’s representation in markets and boardrooms isn’t where it ought to be, it’s definitely improving. Women are now graduating from college at a higher rate than men, and more women are getting elected to government offices than ever.
If you’re a woman trying to make it in the competitive business world, or an investor looking to support businesses with female CEOs—don’t give up! There are plenty of powerful women in business to look up to.
Of all the women CEOs in the world, we rounded up five of the biggest names investors should know.
First on our list of women in business (which doesn’t go in any particular order) is Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors (GM). GM is a global powerhouse in the automotive industry, and it’s also making waves in the electric vehicle or EV space.
The company has been on the up and up since the general automotive crisis and recession in 2008. It’s now one of the top three giants of the American motor industry.
Barra wasn’t responsible for pulling GM out of the recession, though. She didn’t join the board until 2014. Her hire was just in time for the 2014 GM recall crisis, which she faced criticism for, though she’d only been with the company for a few months.
She said the crisis changed her leadership style, and it may have been a bump on the road, but it didn’t stop the advancement of her career. Once she joined the GM board, however, it only took her two years to rise to her current status, CEO.
Barra’s view of the company is one that puts customers first. To that end, newer GM cars aim to offer more useful features for drivers than ever before.
Barra, following her customer-centered view, has driven GM to invest in electric and hybrid cars, which the general public—as well as investors—seems to support.
According to the GM website, her vision for the company is “a world with zero crashes, to save lives; zero emissions, so future generations can inherit a healthier planet; and zero congestion, so customers get back a precious commodity—time.”
Those are lofty goals, which a CEO can’t achieve alone. But as one of the highest-paid automaker CEOs, I think Barra is on the right track.
Another female icon of the business world is former Pepsi (PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi. She’s best-known for her work at Pepsi, where she served as CEO for 12 years.
Nooyi has a long and diverse education history. She studied chemistry in undergrad before going on to earn a master’s in business administration. She then went on to get another master’s in public and private management from Yale’s business school.
She’s never seemed to shy away from hard work or dedication, as you can see from Nooyi’s long history with the Pepsi company. She joined as a senior vice president of corporate strategy and development in 1994. And she stayed in that position through 2001, when she became president and chief financial officer.
During her time as financial president, Nooyi managed brand mergers and distribution issues. And she was also a crucial player in the brands’ move toward healthier options.
With that success under her belt, she moved up to CEO in 2006. She was one of only 11 female CEOs among Fortune 500 companies at the time.
Nooyi was perhaps one of the most successful Pepsi CEOs. While serving in that position, Pepsi’s profits went from $35 billion in 2006 to $63.5 billion in 2017.
However, she stepped down from Pepsi in 2019, in connection with political pressures as well as controversies. She’d faced accusations of using “deceptive” marketing to make Pepsi seem healthier than it actually is. And while those controversies were the reason she stepped down, her legacy as a leader endures.
Virginia “Ginny” Rometty
The 2000s were a rough decade for computer giant IBM (IBM). That’s when Apple products (AAPL) became the norm—if not the obsession—and Microsoft (MSFT) stepped up its game. It seemed like the previous leader in the home and business computer game, IBM, was getting left in the dust.
That’s when Virginia Rometty (who goes by Ginni) entered the scene as CEO in 2012. Rometty saw where IBM was in comparison to the competition, and she put the company on its now-successful path.
How? It seems Rometty is has a particular knack for paying attention to consumers’ concerns. To address a growing distrust of technology, she put data transparency and responsibility at the core of her mission for IBM.
While championing these principles, she also invested company resources in developing AI programs. At the time, AI was still a fledgling industry—more so than it is today.
Also high on her list of accomplishments is her dedication to employees’ comfort and health. Rometty recognizes that it’s challenging to be a woman or a parent of any gender while working in an ever-changing industry. She extended employee parental leave and created a unique program that IBM calls “Returnships.” These programs are adjustment learning periods for employees who’ve been away from work for a while, raising children or coping with health conditions.
This program won IBM the Catalyst Award for “Advancing Diversity and Women’s Initiatives.” As of today, it’s the only tech company ever to win this honor.
Along with her vision of a better life for her employees (and a more successful company), Rometty also led IBM to invest in student technological innovation. When it comes to female role models in tech, Ginni Rometti is high on my list!
Lisa Su is another tech icon, though her company is more niche than IBM. Interestingly, Su worked for IBM for 13 years of her career in varying positions before stepping into her current role and becoming a household name for tech investors.
Since 2014, Su has worked for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). The company may not be as well known as IBM outside of tech and finance circles, but you probably have AMD devices in your home right now.
AMD makes processors and other tech devices sold both on their own and as components in other brands’ products.
Su’s journey to AMD CEO wasn’t immediate, but it was fast. She started working for the company in July 2014 and was promoted to CEO just a few months later, in October.
Her work at AMD has won her a bevy of awards, including the prestigious “Businessperson of the Year” from Fortune magazine in 2018. UPWARD named her “Woman of the Year” in 2018, too, and the list goes on. Lisa Su is easily the most awarded woman on this list—though I’m not pitting these female CEOs against each other. There’s more than enough room for female leadership in the tech industry, and I want to see more!
Quibi CEO Meg Whitman hasn’t always worked for the video startup she runs today. Before that, she was CEO of eBay (EBAY), and she then worked as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard for four years.
While she was successful at HP, Whitman is best-known for her work at eBay. During her time as CEO for the online retailer, she took eBay’s to an $18 billion valuation in ten years. Her leadership also increased profits by more than 100%—way more! You might recall that in those years, “sell it on eBay for me” businesses were popping up in every strip-mall.
After Whitman left eBay, she worked for Hewlett-Packard Enterprises (HPE), where she oversaw and helped navigate HP’s split into two companies, the other being HP Inc. (HP).
When she’s not serving as a CEO actively, Whitman is almost always drawing attention from investors. She’s on the boards of Procter & Gamble (PG), Dropbox (DBX), and a new sports company, Immortals LLC. Whitman has a net worth of $3.6 billion, and like the other women CEOs on our list, she holds an enduring legacy that investors should know about.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN MARKET REALIST by Sybil Prowse
In recent years, Israel has secured its position as the “Startup Nation,” functioning as one of the world’s most developed technological epicenters.
Having established a distinctive high-tech ecosystem, Israel, a country with a population of only eight million, continues to celebrate its innovative capacity with one of the largest density of startups globally. Numerically, Tel Aviv ranked number six in the Global Startup Ecosystem Report of 2017, with an estimated 3,000 startups active across Israel as of last year, around half of which are located in Tel Aviv. The country, with a per capita investment more than double that of the US, has founded a number of the world’s most in demand products including Waze, Gett and Fiverr.com.
What’s contributed to its phenomenal growth in the high-tech field? In the book Start-Up Nation, authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer identify the country’s level of entrepreneurship as a product of “…the tight proximity of great universities, large companies, startups and the ecosystem that connects them – including everything from suppliers, an engineering talent pool and venture capital.” They also address other crucial factors including strong team work, willingness to resource share and the determination of startups to dream big within small realms. Alongside this, a solid integrated framework of accelerators, incubators and co-working hubs provide the space and support to nurture current and future talent.
Women in High-Tech In the 2015 Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking, Tel Aviv placed as the 5th city with the highest percentage of businesses founded by women. Standing at 20 percent, hovering two percent above the global average, Israel’s development of equal opportunities and support for women in the field has played a vital role in this statistic.
One of the more prominent establishments is Yazamiyot (Hebrew for “female entrepreneurs”), a community launched in 2012 by entrepreneur Hilla Ovil Brenner with the goal to empower and supporting women working within the high-tech, bio-tech and innovation fields. “We are the leading community for Israeli female entrepreneurs to meet, network, learn and help each other, and our vision is to dramatically increase the presence of women entrepreneurs across these industries in the next few years,” says Co-Founder and COO Shiran Melamdovsky. “In Tel Aviv, there is much awareness as to the gender gap, but our community aims to combat this by creating great collaborations and opportunities.”
Yazamiyot cooperates with Google Tel Aviv on Google Campus for Moms, a program designed to empower new mothers to pursue entrepreneurial roles, as well as working alongside other initiatives including Microsoft Accelerator, Rise – Barclays innovation program, WIX and the US Embassy as a way of presenting accelerated entrepreneurial programs to women. “This awareness has contributed to a small increase, but women still find themselves in rooms full of men,” states Melamdovsky. “Only a few women reach senior managerial positions and there are not enough mentors and role models for women to emulate. The shortage is already starting from junior management positions like team leaders.”
Yet, despite the under-representation of women in technological fields globally, Tel Aviv is moving in the right direction to provide growth opportunities for women. The city ranked 24th out of 50 on the Dell Global Women Entrepreneur Cities Rankings 2017, based on characteristics and factors including programs, local policies, capital, talent, technology and culture. The last few years have seen a substantial leap in the number of female entrepreneurs spearheading startups in Israel, in addition to an increased presence of women working in venture capital and investment firms.
Making an Impact Other establishments are succeeding in their facilitation as a springboard for women in business, to offer support, insight and networking opportunities across Israel. From Women in Wireless, established in 2015 to “…connect, inspire and empower female leaders in the mobile and digital space,” and WMN, a co-working space and ecosystem for women led ventures; to Let’s Get to 51 percent, a platform for female entrepreneurs to connect with industry high-tech professionals, and Women of Startup Nation (WOSN), an online community founded by Barr Yaron which documents the success stories of women in the field of high tech, a wave of cultural support for female-led initiatives is gaining momentum.
What’s more, Israel has produced some remarkable female talent: Yasmin Lukatz, founder of the Israel Collaboration Network (ICON), an organization linking selected Israeli entrepreneurs with venture capitalists and key connections in Silicon Valley; Dr Kira Radinsky, now eBay Israel Chief Scientist, who sold her consumer analytics company SalesPredict to eBay for millions of dollars; and Maxine Fassberg, whose 30 plus years at Intel-Israel, the last decade of which she served as general manager, saw the company’s export profits increase by over $1.16 billion within three years.
Whilst the figure hovers at around three percent of entrepreneurs in Israel as female, the crack in the glass ceiling is materializing as more women step into top tier positions – trailblazers of their time, paving the way for others to boldly follow suit.
Female-led Startups on the Rise At the crux, the issue of success in the field is centered around the support and opportunities for female entrepreneurs to secure funds. “The demand from VCs and investors for women-led startups is increasing, as more women-led businesses around the world show increased results and higher ROI,” states Melamdovsky. “There are thousands of women in Israel and hundreds of thousands worldwide that have the ideas, skills, and experience to establish and lead successful and global companies, with the right support and mentorship.”
The success stories are trickling in, with more than a handful of Israeli founded female-led startups making their presence known internationally:
Feelter – Founded by Smadar Landau in 2014 as a plugin for ecommerce, utilizing social media content to help increase website conversion rates. It was voted by Inc. as one of the 20 Israeli Startups to watch in 2017 and won first place in the 2016 G-Startup Worldwide competition.
Missbeez – led by co-founder Maya Gura as a mobile marketplace for beauty services matching busy women with self-employed professionals. The startup has so far raised more than $5 M.
Sidekix – an urban discovery app, co-founded by Jenny Drezin, which provides interest based routes across categories including shopping, culture and nightlife. The app has had half a million global downloads since its launch in 2016 and has secured over $2 M in funding to date.
Shupperz – led by Tal Rubinstein, is a worldwide social network of skilled shoppers that enables anyone to shop like a local. This first-of-its-kind social platform is said to be the next big thing in retail innovation. The company has so far raised over $4 M.
The aim of the program is to double the number of such initiatives supported by the authority within two years.
The Israel Innovation Authority, the government’s tech investment arm, announced on Wednesday the launch of a grant program for female-founded startups.
The grant aims to double the number of female-led initiatives supported by the authority within two years.
To qualify for the grant, 33% of the company’s owners and technological management roles must be filled by women. The grant will cover up to 75% of a startup’s research and development costs for its first year, and up to 70% for the second year. The budget cap will be NIS 2.5 million ($690,000) for the first year and NIS 4.5 million ($1.24 million) for the following year.
In 2000-2017, women accounted for just 7% of the founders or co-founders of startups established in Israel, according to an April report by Israel-based market research firm IVC Research Center Ltd.
Only 10.5% of the founders of startups established in Israel since 2014 are women, according to Start-Up Nation Central (SNC), a Tel Aviv-based non-profit organization and startup database. Out of 387 founders whose startups have raised more than just seed investments, only around 5% are women, according to SNC.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN WWW.CALCALISTECH.COM
New York City is home to 359,000 women-owned businesses (and counting), which employ over 190,000 people and generate $50 billion in sales annually.
While female entrepreneurship is experiencing a gloriously steep incline, there are still significant gaps to close between ownership, employment, and sales of men- and women-owned businesses. According to a landmark study of NYC women entrepreneurs conducted by the city in 2015, key challenges include access to capital and financial planning, tailored business skills education, streamlined information, and direct connections to mentors and networks.
Dozens of programs, businesses, and organizations exist in NYC to help women business owners address these very issues. Many resources are free and available to anyone, while some come with requirements and fees. Peruse this comprehensive list of resources to find at least one new opportunity to learn, connect, and grow your own small business (or the business of your favorite woman entrepreneur)!
City Government & Non-Profit Resources
Women Entrepreneurs NYC (WE NYC)
WE NYC launched as a partnership between the City and Citigroup with the aim of supporting 5,000 women entrepreneurs in underserved communities. The program’s user-centered design and focus on women as key economic drivers is groundbreaking among cities in the US. So far, the initiative has produced an extensive research report on women entrepreneurs in the City and started building community with occasional events and an active Facebook group.
While not exclusively for women, the New York City chapter of SCOREincludes women experts in their fields who offer to mentor new and growing business owners in person or remotely, totally for free.
Women’s Business Center (WBC)
The Women’s Business Center is part of the Business Outreach Center Network. From its offices in Brooklyn and Staten Island, WBC offers business training, one-on-one counseling and financing resources to help women entrepreneurs, especially in underserved communities, start and grow their businesses.
Minority and Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Program
The M/WBE Program provides businesses owned by women and minorities with opportunities to get contracts with NYC agencies. M/WBE certified companies get access to technical assistance, a listing in the City’s Online Directory of Certified Businesses, educational workshops, and networking events.
Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement (WCECA)
The Women’s Center was established in 1970 to support the economic self-sufficiency of NYC women, especially those in underserved communities. The Center has conducted Career Services programs for 40,000 low-income and unemployed New York City women to date.
National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)
The NWBC is a non-partisan federal advisory council (the only one of its kind) that advises the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues relevant to women business owners. They offer fact sheets and research to the public.
Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development(DMWBD)
DMWBD exists to help Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses (MWBEs) gain access to and bid on state contracts.
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
The non-profit WBENC is the largest third-party certifier of women-owned business in the US. In addition to certification, they offer opportunities, resources, and engagement.
Women Presidents’ Educational Organization (WPEO)
The WPEO is a regional affiliate of the WBENC. Its mission is to expand opportunities for women-owned businesses by advocacy, fostering relationships with corporations and the government, and providing certification
New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce (NYWCC)
The NYWCC is a non-profit “dedicated to assisting women and other disadvantaged minorities achieve success and economic independence through small business, micro-enterprise ownership and self-employment.” It is headquartered in Harlem and has served 5,000 small businesses to date. Membership is free for 2016.
American Business Women’s Association (ABWA)
ABWA NYC “unites professionals of diverse backgrounds and occupations in a common commitment to the personal and professional development of its members, offering networking, education, leadership and volunteer opportunities in a supportive and relaxed atmosphere.” The group meets monthly in Midtown. Membership costs about $200/year.
WAM Ventures is a network as well as a business advisory firm providing development, capital raising guidance & strategic partnership services.
Women Entrepreneurs and Professionals Network
WEPN is a Meetup community of 600 young women entrepreneurs in NYC who meet regularly to educate and encourage one another.
Tory Burch Foundation
The Tory Burch Foundation offers a wide range of services to women entrepreneurs, including workshops, access to capital, grant opportunities, and networking events. You can subscribe to their email list to keep updated on new programs and events.
New York Women’s Agenda (NYWA)
Women’s Agenda was founded in 1992 as an umbrella organization for major women’s groups. It is a coalition of over 100 diverse women’s organizations that advocate and organize around business and other issues affecting women.
National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)
NAWBO, which represents 10 million businesses in the country, is “the only dues-based national organization representing the interests of all women entrepreneurs across all industries.” Membership in its NYC chapter costs between $20-40 per month.
Women Presidents Organization
The Women Presidents Organization is a non-profit organization for women presidents, CEOs, and managing directors of private, multimillion-dollar companies. The organization has six New York City chapters located in Midtown. Membership dues run from $900 to $5,000 per year.
Ellevate’s New York Chapter offers access to a “global community of smart, savvy women with an eye to success.” Monthly membership fees run between $8 and $80.
The WW Club
Founded by Phoebe Lovatt, The WW Club offers “a space for working women worldwide”. Benefits include member-only content, group chats and events.
Tory Burch Foundation Education Program
The Tory Burch Foundation Education Program offers qualified businesses specialized, practical education to develop a customized growth plan in a three-month course and weekly mentorship.
SheWorx offers paid events for women entrepreneurs in NYC to learn and connect, such as a weekly breakfast series.
OKREAL “hosts results-driven experiences for women who are figuring out their lives: helping them determine what their version of fulfillment looks like and how to get there.” Offerings includes mentoring opportunities, live interviews and workshops.
Grants & Competitions
The InnovateHER Challenge is an annual competition held by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for businesses that specifically benefit women. Local winners advance to a national semifinal round. Three national finalists win between $10,000 and $40,000.
Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition
The Fellows Competition is an annual program for women entrepreneurs that culminates in a three-day workshop, mentorship, and the opportunity to win a $100,000 grant.
Sponsored by Rent the Runway and UBS, Project Entrepreneur is “a venture competition and educational program designed to provide women entrepreneurs nationwide with the tools to build high-growth, high-impact businesses”. The top 200 applicants are invited to a two-day weekend intensive in New York City. Project Entrepreneur also offers a collection of digital resources for women across the country.
WomanCon is a one-day conference for women business entrepreneurs held each fall in NYC. Tickets range from $100 to $150.
The Women’s Entrepreneurs Festival, now in it’s 6th year, is an event dedicated to supporting a community of women entrepreneurs. General admission tickets are $375.
Create & Cultivate
On May 6, Create & Cultivate is hosting a one-day conference in NYC filled with panels, workshops, break out sessions and much more. Tickets range from $350 to $550, and panelists include Rebecca Minkoff, Katia Beauchamp (Birchbox) and Cleo Wade.
Astia was founded in Silicon Valley in 1999 as a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying and promoting best-in-class women high-growth entrepreneurs. The organization operates out of locations in NYC, San Francisco, and London.
Women’s Venture Fund (WVF)
The WVF is a nonprofit organization and community lender (CDFI) that helps women in major cities to start and grow their businesses through training programs, events, and funding.
Golden Seeds is one of the nation’s most active early-stage investment firms, focused on vibrant opportunities for women-led businesses.
Gotham Gal, lead by Joanne Wilson, invests in start-up companies that are technology based, including some in the consumer products area and even restaurants.
Female Founders Fund (F Cubed)
Female Founders Fund invests in areas where they feel women-led startups have incredible impact: e-commerce, media, web-enabled products and services, marketplaces and platforms.
37 Angels is a community of women investors. Their mission is to educate women to become angel investors. They also offer a curated collection of resources for entrepreneurs, with a category specifically devoted to resources for female founders.
Women 2.0 is “the world’s largest community-driven media brand designed for the next generation of technology leaders. Women 2.0 creates content, community and events for aspiring and current innovators in technology.”
Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator
While not exclusively for women, this NYC accelerator for tech companies has many women mentors and has shown good support for women-founded startups.
Springboard is a expert network of innovators, investors and influencers who want to grow women-led businesses in technology, media, and life sciences
The Vinetta Project is a social and investment community designed to support high-growth tech companies founded by women. Its New York Chapter has over 6,000 members.
New York Fashion Tech Lab
The New York Fashion Tech Lab connects women-founded startups in fashion technology companies with major retailers and brands.
Professional Women in Construction
The non-profit member association’s mission is to advance women in the male-dominated industry. The New York Chapter was its founding chapter.
Women Builders Council (WBC)
The WBC represents women in the construction industry on legislative advocacy, new business and professional development, and leadership.
Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCO)
WHEDCo works with underserved families in the Bronx on multiple issues, including business development. “WHEDCo is working to make the Bronx a more beautiful, more equitable, and more economically vibrant place to live and a raise a family.”
Bronx Women’s Business Resource Center (WBRC)
The Bronx WBRC is an SBA program that provides guidance to small business owners and future entrepreneurs, including workshops, access to capital, one-on-one assistance, and computer training. WBRC is part of the Business Outreach Center Network and is one of the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) Centers in New York State. Services are offered in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
BOC Women’s Business Center
The Business Outreach Center Network’s center in Brooklyn is designed to help women entrepreneurs with business development and access to capital.
Women’s Brooklyn Enterprise Center (WBEC)
Two WBEC locations in Brooklyn offer one-on-one business and marketing coaching. They are funded by the SBA and also provide Business Development and Finance workshops.
Women’s Business Center
The Queens WBC in Jamaica is designed to help women entrepreneurs with business development and access to capital.
Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC)
The QEDC’s mission is to create and retain jobs through programming that stabilizes neighborhoods, assists small businesses and promotes tourism and business development. Their programs include the Women’s Business Center and The Women’s Power Networking Breakfast Series,
Even More Resources
NYPL Small Business Services Directory
This NYPL Directory helps you search hundreds of organizations offering small business services by keyword, industry, and service categories. It’s a great resource for finding niche services to fill your particular business’ needs.
Business First Resource Center
The City resource Business First is a portal to a huge number of incentives, programs and resources accessible to companies within New York State. The site is administered by Empire State Development and is searchable by type of assistance, industry, size of business, and M/WBE status.
An ex-banker launches a fashion startup that makes luxurious women’s suits and shift dresses that live up to 18-hour days at the office.In her former life as a banking executive, Joanna Dai sometimes worked 18-hour days and regularly walked out of 10-hour flights directly into business meetings.
She was up to the rigors of her high-powered job, but her clothes weren’t. Her expensive, tailored suits and beautiful silk dresses would be a sweaty, crumpled mess after a long day. “There are plenty of brands that sell beautiful, well-made clothes that you can wear to the office,” Dai says. “But they don’t seem particularly well-suited to the way we work today.”So, with no experience in fashion whatsoever, Dai decided to create a new clothing label focused on inventing the workwear of the future. Dai, who studied electrical and computer engineering in college before spending a decade at Bear Stearns and J.P. Morgan, wasn’t particularly worried about her lack of design experience. She took a two-week course at the London College of Fashion and then interned for designer Emilia Wickstead. And last year, she launched an eponymous brand, Dai, in London. She personally designed every piece in the collection. “In some ways, I think the fact that I did not spend a lot of time in the fashion industry was an asset,” she says. “I didn’t feel constrained by industry norms.”
One industry norm she’s tackled head-on is what materials can go into luxury garments. The luxury industry focuses on using premium fabrics like top-shelf silk, cotton, and linens. These fabrics are beautiful and well-made, but after a few hours, they tend to crease, wrinkle, and stain, which doesn’t look very polished or professional. Dai wanted to experiment with incorporating some of the most technical fabrics on the market–the kind that activewear brands use in their performance gear–into high-end professional clothing. So while the outfits have classic workwear silhouettes, when you put them on, they feel a lot more like the clothes you wear to the gym. The clothes in her line start at $115 for a simple shell blouse, which puts it squarely in the entry luxury category and at a similar price point as competitors like Theory, MM.Lafleur, and Hugo Boss.
Dai’s startup is part of a trend in the fashion industry of incorporating technical fabrics into everyday clothes. Men’s shirt brands like Ministry of Supply and Mizzen+Main have incorporated technical fabrics into dress shirts. And activewear brands like Carbon38 have gone beyond running pants and sports bras to make dresses and pants that might be work-appropriate, depending on your office culture. But Dai’s brand stands out because she is exclusively focused on making high-tech, high-end women’s workwear, catering to the many female professionals who are still required to wear formal clothes to the office. “There’s been all of this talk about how the workplace is becoming more casual,” Dai says. “But having worked in an industry where the dress code is still alive and well, I know there’s still a demand for suits and shift dresses. Women in law, politics, and finance aren’t wearing sneakers to the office just yet.”
She sources most of her materials from an Italian mill called Eurojersey, which makes a brand of textiles called Sensitive Fabrics that are often used in biking gear and ballet clothes. The brand is known for creating fabrics that have a body mapping effect, creating a linear and homogenous look whether it is covering an elbow or a torso. And the fabrics have a range of high-tech functions like breathability, wicking moisture, resisting creasing and pilling, and four-way stretch.
I tried on a midnight blue Dai blazer ($475) and trousers ($225) to see this material at work. While you can tell that it isn’t made of cotton or wool, the suit doesn’t have the kind of shiny, stretchy texture you might find in sports gear. But when you put it on, it does, indeed stretch, creating sleek lines, and no creases. I tested it on a warm day, but it didn’t feel too hot, thanks, in part, to the breathable fabric. With her suits, Dai deliberately creates more masculine cuts, with angled shoulders and lapels. “Working in finance, I was often the only woman in the room,” she says. “I like the symmetry of my suit matching the suit of the man sitting on the other side of the table from me.”
Dai also has some feminine pieces in her collection. Besides the classic shift dresses, she designed the $325 Regatta dress that has a cap sleeve and an A-line skirt that is made from a similar material as the suit. It’s a dress that would look appropriate at the office, but might also work for a date night or a weekend day out. “When you start using materials that are easier to actually live in, the clothes themselves become more versatile,” says Dai. “You can wear them from the office to another event, or from work week to weekend.”
Dai sells the clothes entirely through her website, so her brand has so far been popular with millennial professionals who like to shop online. But these women–who are in their late twenties and early thirties–also happen to be much more environmentally and socially conscious than previous generations of consumers. Dai has kept that in mind as she’s built out her company. Dai is certified by Positive Luxury, a third-party organization that assesses the impact of companies, including their social and environmental standards, their philanthropic goals, and their leadership. Dai also partners with suppliers with a track record of sustainability. Eurojersey, for instance, has a solar panel system that powers the entire mill and filters water so it can be used over and over again in the manufacturing process. “When I launched my brand, I was thinking about the future of women’s workwear,” Dai says. “And it’s clear to me that I need to run this company sustainably to ensure it’s a future we actually want to be part of.”
ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN FAST COMPANY.COM
Bumble has just announced a fund to invest in female founders, noting that last year female founders got just 2% of all venture capital funding. While this is great news, there is another industry bias worth exploring which is not about women founders, but products for women.
Products aimed at the female customer are being underfunded, because most start-up investors are male and do not understand the use case for products that they would not use themselves. This is supported by hard evidence: Crunchbase reports that women make up only 8% of partners in the top 100 VC firms.
This study from the Boston Consulting Group shows that companies with at least one female founder raised around half of the funding raised by all male teams, but made 10% more revenue. The group reports that “many of the female interviewees told us that their offerings—in categories such as childcare or beauty—had been created on the basis of personal experience and that they had struggled to get male investors to understand the need or see the potential value of their ideas.”
I have come across this while raising funding for the company I run: a platform for women to discuss what to wear and buy with stylists and a community. Over and over again, I heard potential investors say that our company may or may not be a success, but because they could not understand the use case they would not invest. As a result, and without intending to, we became a female funded company, because women could intuitively understand the need for feedback and reassurance about their outfit choices and could see our global potential.
I used to put this experience down to the fact that I am a first-time founder and a woman. Not only am I navigating the fundraising world for the first time, I am also facing the biases we know women face in the workplace.
At a recent industry event, I was surprised to hear Treatwell founder Lopo Champalimaud speak about the difficulty he faced raising money for the beauty services booking platform he founded. On Treatwell, users can find and book salons for beauty treatments and leave reviews, and salons get access new customers. Not only does Treatwell make discovery easy, it also saves women the embarrassment of calling from the office to book a waxing appointment. When speaking to the mostly male investor market, Champalimaud had trouble convincing them that the problem was worth solving.
Treatwell founder Lopo Champalimaud had trouble convincing early stage investors of the opportunities in the beauty market (Photo by Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images)
“If you don’t sell the importance and size of the problem, then you won’t succeed in the pitch. The problem is the most important thing. We had to open up the eyes of the investors about how big the industry was.” Champalimaud suggests drawing a comparison to another industry that investors understand that is going through a similar disruption. “I picked comparisons to the music industry, because there was so much going into it then and very little going into the hair and beauty services space.”
He adds that “capital isn’t purely efficient, it’s not a purely rational thing in the early stages”, which means that framing the issue, building a network and great storytelling matter more for a product that most investors would not use.
This made me wonder if the issue I was facing was a wider industry problem and reached out to another male founder of a product for women. Dmitry Gurski is the founder of period tracking app Flo, and has had five successful exits already, including one to Facebook, so appears to be a prime candidate for investment. Yet he said he had similar problems raising institutional money for his latest venture.
He says that there is a chicken and egg problem in the market: “there are no analogous big exits. If there are no big exits, there are no benchmarks, if there are no benchmarks, there is no venture funding, which means that companies don’t get to grow, and this cycle continues.” He added that the lack of exits was not the only issue: “When I was raising for Flo, there weren’t any companies in the space that had significant venture backing, so I had no reference points.”
Supermodel Natalia Vodianova invested in Flo, a period tracking app (Photo by Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Dior)
Flo did get venture funding from Flint Capital and is also backed by supermodel Natalia Vodianova. The app is now leading the “Health & Fitness” category in the U.S. App Store. Gurski’s track record meant that he had the network and experience to overcome these difficulties, but for first time founders targeting female consumers, Gurski advises to start by finding angel investors or advisors with experience in the target market before approaching VCs.
After these conversations with two successful male founders, I was feeling confused. Women control over $20 trillion in global spend, yet products for women are being underfunded at the early stage. If early stage companies are not getting funding to test their ideas, they will never grow to reach the full spending power that women now have. Few start-ups being funded in a space with great financial potential appeals to my MBA trained brain, but not to my female founder one. If the opportunity is so huge, why isn’t everyone already doing it?
I decided to get a venture capitalist's perspective, because from a purely rational financial point of view, this did not make sense. The most knowledgeable person on the topic in London is Frederic Court, founder of Felix Capital. Court has invested in Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop, the Business of Fashion and Farfetch amongst others. He says his strategy is not to invest in products for women specifically, but to invest in consumer products as a category.
“Nobody has the duty to invest in anything. People just need to stick to their strategy, and if their strategy is investing in consumer products, then they can’t ignore the female market,” says Court. “A large class of what we do is either totally female centric, or a large part female centric. Even in the food investments there are at least 50% female consumers. Our investment team is 50% female and 50% male, with wide age ranges. This was a very conscious effort. The last thing I wanted was four French guys with beards all agreeing with each other.”
As an early investor in fashion tech unicorn Farfetch, Court faced difficulties raising follow on rounds for the company from bigger funds: “We didn’t raise money from Silicon Valley because there was no understanding of the scale and the opportunity.” Looking around Silicon Valley, where partners are known for wearing Patagonia fleeces, rather than fine Italian tailoring, it is easy to reach that conclusion, but that is not the case in places like London, New York or Hong Kong.
Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of goop, an online lifestyle company. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for goop)
For first time founders, Court has this advice: “the one thing that everybody understand is numbers: you need to show evidence of demand.” However, that can be hard at the early stages. “The earlier you are, the more you are selling yourself and the story, so the storytelling is very important. The founder needs to be authentic to the business. This is why we like backing businesses that start as a passion project, for example like goop.”
While researching this issue, I focused on male founders and investors because I did not want to confuse the issue of biases that women face with biases against products for women. They are different issues, but both stem from the lack of diversity in venture capitalist funds.
While that makes my life harder as a founder, this is a fantastic opportunity for high returns for investors who can see the potential of markets that do not appeal to the typical white male venture capitalist. If I worked in a pension fund deciding on my asset allocations, I would be looking for venture funds with a track record of investing in products for women. With $20 trillion on the table, there is plenty of room for unicorns.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN FORBES.COM
Women entrepreneurs have two choices: Accept the status quo or move toward a philosophy of authenticity to shatter ceilings and bring down barriers. I endorse the latter.
If you are a woman in business, you won’t be surprised to learn that gender stereotyping prevents many female employees from advancing to C-suite levels. What you might not know is that the bias comes from men and women alike.
Research published in the Academy of Management Journal supports the notion that women have a more difficult time getting recognized as potential leaders, and PayScale’s Inside the Gender Pay Gap report attributed that to the unconscious bias of both men and women. According to the PayScale report, even women who consider themselves feminists are just as apt to see other women as the “weaker sex.”
At this point, women entrepreneurs and high achievers have two choices: mutely accept the status quo or move toward a philosophy of authenticity to shatter ceilings and bring down barriers. I strongly recommend the latter.
Turn the tables on bias.
At the buffet of life, we women tend to fill our plates, taking on responsibility not just for our own journeys, but for everyone else’s as well. This often leaves us drowning in commitments and unable to make moves to better ourselves.
Sound familiar? You’ve probably felt a burden accompanying every tug of a dream. Should you go for it and scale back the inclination to support others? Absolutely -- as long as you have the courage to be your authentic self.
You achieve your authentic self when you do your homework, thoroughly research everything and stay true to your ideals along the way. Don’t limit yourself by assuming that the unconscious biases related to the gender wage gap mean you face an uphill battle. Rather, gather and use information to become mindful and strategic.
I worked with one female colleague itching for a promotion. We discovered she was already performing at the level she needed to move up. She was strong, managed a big team and had all the necessary technical skills. Why wasn’t she considered when openings were announced?
She wasn’t thinking strategically about the way she was perceived. In meetings with co-workers several rungs above her, she would dress too informally, and her presence waylaid her progress. As soon as she realized her missteps, she took a cue from those leaders several layers above her and sharpened up, became aware of her potential and ran with her newfound power of understanding.
Reach your authentic potential.
Pushing past biases, misperceptions and other hindrances to getting ahead requires the willingness to set yourself up for success. Use the following techniques to release yourself from old habits that may be holding you back:
1. Think of yourself as an expert first.
You may be a woman, but you’re a professional first. Lead with your unique qualifications, not your gender. The fact that you’re female certainly gives you a different perspective, but that identity shouldn’t be the lens through which you view the universe or yourself.
Not sure you can embrace this novel way of seeing life? Beginning today, concentrate on starting new things that align with your desires and dreams. Become the go-to person, regardless of that X chromosome. Instead, seeing your female status as the mirror reflecting your womanhood, let it reflect your promise.
Changing the way everyone else treats you starts with how you treat yourself. Develop a comfort level in your self-talk that boosts your confidence and enables you to develop your authenticity. As you do, you’ll start seeing doors being held open -- not out of chivalry or chauvinism, but out of respect.
2. Be the competition crusher.
If you want something done, be proactive. Take the bull by the horns. Be more prepared and knowledgeable than everyone else. Why? You’ll literally be impossible to ignore. Not only will you gain self-satisfaction, but you’ll also buck outdated biases and stereotypes. You’ll also kick your confidence into high gear, which is something women in power desperately need to do. Eliminate any defeatist inclinations with a boost of know-how and marked achievement.
The co-founders Nadia Boujarwah and Lydia Gilbert of apparel company Dia & Co. were friends at Harvard Business School; and back then, they began conversing about the lack of good retail market options for women who wear sizes 14 and up. A year after graduating, the two founded their New York City-based company, which sends subscribers a box of clothing that has been selected by a stylist.
Consumer feedback was positive, but investors were hesitant: A scenario of female entrepreneurs catering to a specific group of women wasn’t well understood by predominantly male venture capitalists. Still, the duo kept at it, raising money privately and methodically growing the business before returning to investors, at which point they secured millions of dollars in funding. The takeaways: Stay confident, focus on the company’s potential and don’t take no for an answer.
3. Identify and purge self-sabotaging patterns.
Most people have habits that are hurting them without their realizing it. Take job-hopping, for example. A study released on LinkedIn indicated that the women it studied, who graduated from college between 1986 and 2010, tended to move around from job to job more frequently than men.
Could being quick to leave employment rather than seek current workplace promotions have cost these women opportunities?
We all suffer from the desire to “get going” when the going gets tough. Yet pulling up anchor early may leave your career permanently adrift. Evaluating your own reasons for making job decisions, such as constantly looking for something better or different, can illustrate characteristics you don't realize are damaging your progress.
4. Boldly ask for honest feedback.
When was the last time you asked your colleagues for feedback? I myself routinely ask people at all levels of the organization for feedback, irrespective of their roles or gender. I even go to my children, because I recognize what they say can be brutally, yet refreshingly, honest.
Feedback is a gift, and not one you can afford to wait to receive. Lean In’s Women in the Workplace 2017 study indicated that women are less likely to receive career-advancement advice from managers and senior leaders. This means that no news might actually be bad news, as we’ve all learned. Begin requesting input, even if it’s tough.
Not every situation will be cozy, especially if you’re thrust into a new role. Therefore, you need to overcome the desire for complete comfort. Work hard every day to overcome the self-doubt that stops you from diving into new projects or opportunities. You don’t have to have all the answers -- you just have to be willing to progress.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN ENTREPRENEUR.COM
After 15 years in the tech industry, I've learned many things the hard way.
There are plenty of things I wish I knew when I started working in tech 15 years ago. Jumping into any new role or working in a new industry that you're not always familiar with can feel overwhelming and even intimidating.
Throughout my career, first with PayPal, then eBay, and now Facebook, I've learned many things the hard way that helped get me to where I am today. I'm sharing these lessons with the hope that they may help you in your career.
1. Confidence is a gift you give yourself.
One of the things I struggle with the most is mentoring people who lack self confidence who I know are stronger than they think. Nothing I say seems to change how they feel about themselves because they can't see what others see in them. Reach for the assignment and believe that you will learn how to do it. You are not asked to take on assignments so you will fail; people offer them because they see your potential.
2. Maybe they're saying it because you are a woman, but that doesn't make it any less true.
I've received a lot of tough feedback during my career. My immediate reaction is to discard anything that would not have been said to a man in the same position. For years, I was told I was not warm or approachable. I realized I had two choices -- ignore or adapt. I learned to adapt because this perception was holding me back. Pretending it didn't matter changed nothing.
3. Listen to feedback, but choose what you change.
A lot of time when we receive feedback, we react by making a change, but all of those changes together could end up taking away what makes you uniquely you. Choose who you want to be and what you want to be known for, and remember that these choices may change over time depending on your position.
4. Everyone suffers from impostor syndrome.
Some fake it better than others. I mentored a leader on my team who was struggling in her new, expanded role. Her lack of confidence showed in how she spoke and led. I pulled her aside and asked what was wrong. She said that she was used to being the expert, and she felt out of her depth taking on managing a new team. I told her that I felt like I had no idea what I was doing every single day. She was really surprised and felt reassured that she was not alone. We all feel this. Those who learn to manage it come out ahead.
5. Guilt and worry are anchors weighing down your well-being.
Free yourself. Guilt and worry are burdens that women needlessly carry, and I decided to set these non-productive feelings aside. These twin emotions often result in negative thoughts about what could have been or what you should have done. Rather than regretting, I choose what to do differently next time.
6. Seek alignment, not approval.
Many times women leaders worry about being liked, which makes it harder for them to have impact. I have done this many times; I see something that's wrong, but I'm afraid to speak up because I don't want to be labelled as non-collaborative or unsupportive. By seeking to be liked and avoiding confrontation, I was holding back what I truly thought. While I still struggle with how people see me, I realized it's more important to seek alignment and understanding.
7. Stereotypes run deep.
I'm a mom of three; I had a baby at each of the tech companies where I've worked, so my coworkers have seen me sleep deprived and struggling to navigate life with newborns. I decided early on that there was no use hiding this, even knowing how significant maternal bias is. Data shows that across industries mothers face more disadvantages than non-mothers when going after a job. In fact, even signs of motherhood, such as listing PTA membership on a resume, make it 79 percent less likely to be hired and, even if hired, offered $11,000 less in salary.
I have personally recruited many moms to Facebook. I consciously choose to share openly about my family in order to illustrate that us moms are no less committed to work than women who don't have children. It's important to become a role model for the stereotypes we want to change.
8. Don't give up.
Studies show that women leave tech at twice the rate of men. Considering only 20 percent of engineering and computer science degrees go to women, the share of women leaders in tech declines the further you get in your career. Many women feel the pressure of work and home are too overwhelming without support.
A decade ago, about a year after my son was born, I gave my resignation to a VP I worked with and told him I was leaving the field. My career felt stuck, and the stress of being a new mom made it hard to contemplate continuing. A sponsor of mine reached out to me, and I ended up taking a role on her team where I could continue to work part-time and be challenged. I know what it's like to live on that precipice of not being sure if this is all worth it, and I assure you that with time, distance and support, it is.
9. Learn to ask directly.
I spent 20 minutes with a woman on my team as she circled the topic she wanted to address. She recounted her history and aspirations. I waited for what the question was. Finally, I asked, "Are you asking me if I'm going to promote you?" She said yes, but she was afraid I would say no. I suggested that she instead say, "What do you see as the gaps between where I am now and the next level? What would it take for me to get there?"
So often we are afraid to ask the direct question because we worry about being judged. But, not asking means we pass up an opportunity to get feedback and progress.
10. Find your community.
Laszlo Bock, formerly head of Google people operations, studied high-performing teams at Google; he told Freakonomics Radio that "the most important attribute of a high-performing team is not who leads it or who's on it or how many people or where it is. It's psychological safety." Finding a team and company where you feel you can make mistakes and take risks is critical to your success.
When I joined Facebook, a handful of former PayPal colleagues joined around the same time. That support helped me take a leap even though I was feeling overwhelmed as a new mom. Based on that experience, I work to cultivate that feeling of safety and support within my own teams.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN ENTREPRENEUR.COM
What does it mean to be a woman in business in 2017? We wish that were a simpler question.
It was a year when female CEOs set a Fortune 500 record: When the list published, they held 32 of the top jobs. Yet it was also a year when the uncomfortable realities that professional women often live with privately burst into the public eye - whether it was at Uber, in the startup and VC community, or at Fox News.
It's amid this tumultuous backdrop that we publish our 20th Most Powerful Women list. In this ranking you'll see progress, even if it seems frustratingly slow. Our 2017 list is home to 26 CEOs, including PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi and HPE's Meg Whitman, running companies valued at a total $1.1 trillion. It features seven new names – plus Hollywood multihyphenate Reese Witherspoon. Among the rookies: PG&E chief Geisha Williams, the first Latina to lead aÂ Fortune 500 company.
So to answer the question above: It's complicated. But that's not stopping 2017's Most Powerful Women-and it shouldn't stop you. Here are the top 10.
1. Mary Barra
Chairman and CEO, General Motors
Roaring into No. 1 for her third straight year, Barra remains in the driver’s seat even as crosstown rival Ford ousted CEO Mark Fields in May. Proving that GMwon’t be counted out in this era of disruption, she beat Tesla’s much-hyped Model 3 to market with the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which launched in 2016 with a battery that can outlast Tesla’s; it’s now the top-selling non-luxury pure electric car. Barra also has her eyes on a driverless future: After acquiring self-driving tech startup Cruise Automation last year, GM has begun testing autonomous Bolts, and its new car-sharing service Maven is offering deals to Uber and Lyft drivers. The stock is starting to respond, climbing 25% over the past 12 months, and revenue ticked up 9% in 2016—GM’s biggest sales growth in years.
2. Indra Nooyi
Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo
PepsiCo filled the long-vacant role of president in July, sparking talk that the CEO might be heading toward retirement. But Nooyi claims she has no plans to step down, and why should she? While revenue was flat in 2016, profits jumped 16%, and the stock has outpaced most of its Big Food brethren as the industry tries to adjust to massive consumer shifts. Nooyi has responded by moving the portfolio toward healthier fare. The company recently launched a premium water line and in 2016 acquired kombucha maker KeVita.
3. Marillyn Hewson
Chairman, President, and CEO, Lockheed Martin
While President Trump has called Lockheed’s F-35 fighter-jet program too expensive, the Commander-in-Chief remains an invaluable—if fickle—ally for the company, which counts the U.S. government as its biggest customer. The contractor is also a prime beneficiary of the White House’s defense budget increase, as well as new arms deals with the likes of Saudi Arabia: Lockheed’s stock price has risen some 26% over the past year, handily beating the S&P, while revenue jumped 17% in 2016.
4. Abigail Johnson
President and CEO, Fidelity Investments
Fidelity posted $15.9 billion in revenue in 2016—its fourth consecutive record year—while assets under administration climbed some 11%, to $5.7 trillion. Yet it is still struggling to stop the bleeding from its actively managed equity mutual funds; investors pulled $58 billion out of the products last year. In response, Johnson, who assumed her father’s chairman title in 2016, is goosing other parts of the business—lowering fees on passive investing products and allowing customers to track their Bitcoin holdings.
5. Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook’s blockbuster 2016 ad revenue growth (57%, to $26.9 billion) propelled the company—and its stock price—to new heights under Sandberg. While Facebook and its Internet peers grappled with how to handle fake news and online hate groups, the fiery political environment pushed Sandberg to speak up more frequently about issues important to her, including women’s health and immigration reform. Her book about grief and the loss of her husband, Option B, topped the bestseller list this spring.
6. Ginni Rometty
Chairman, President, and CEO, IBM
The pressure on Rometty keeps growing—as IBM’s revenue continues to shrink. In July the tech behemoth reported that sales had contracted yet again, marking its 21st consecutive quarter of decline. Earlier, in May, famed investor Warren Buffett sold off a third of his company’s shares in IBM, sending the stock tumbling. But there are bright spots too. Revenue from newer businesses like analytics, cloud, mobile, and security now account for 45.6% of sales, up nearly five percentage points from the year before.
7. Meg Whitman
CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Nearly two years after cleaving HP in half in the biggest split by revenue in corporate history, Whitman has continued trimming divisions off the piece she still runs. That’s meant that sales for HPE, which specializes in servers and networking systems, are still decreasing, even as its profits have started growing again. Still, five years since unveiling her plan to rescue HP, Whitman—who was a finalist for the Uber CEO job—is now under pressure to deliver on the promised results, namely revenue growth.
8. Safra Catz
As co-CEO, Catz is leading a major expansion: hiring 5,000-plus new engineers, salespeople, and other staff to beef up the enterprise tech giant’s cloud business. The division, Oracle’s fastest-growing, brought in $4.6 billion in the company’s last fiscal year, up 60% from the one prior. Catz also spearheaded the 2016 $9.3 billion acquisition of NetSuite, the largest deal in Oracle’s history. In her spare time she oversees a $3.5 billion company investment in STEM initiatives and was on President Trump’s transition team.
9. Phebe Novakovic
Chairman and CEO, General Dynamics
Novakovic now runs a government contractor a third more valuable than it was a year ago, benefiting from a political environment favorable toward military outfitters. Still, sales fell slightly in 2016 as defense spending shifted toward aircraft and weapons systems and away from the boots-on-the-ground technology in which the company specializes. But Novakovic’s push to expand cybersecurity capabilities has been a boon, helping GD land new contracts and record operating earnings and margins last year.
10. Ruth Porat
SVP anf CFO, Google, Alphabet
When Porat was told her nickname at Google is “Ruth Vader”—thanks to her relentless focus on the bottom line—her response was, “That’s fantastic!” Wall Street thinks so too: Since she became CFO in May 2015, shares have jumped more than 70%; it’s currently the world’s second-most-valuable company after Apple. And while the Morgan Stanley vet’s discipline is seen as a major reason behind the end of some of its moonshot projects, she insists she is more focused on investment than cost cutting.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON FORTUNE.COM
Only 8% of venture capital (VC) firms in the U.S. have female partners, and that lopsided gender composition may be hurting venture capital performance portfolios.
The evidence suggests that having no female partners makes VC firms less likely to invest in female-founded or female-led firms. But what much of the VC world might not realize, is that female-led firms may have a higher rate of return on average than male-led firms.
First Round Capital, for example, touts its success at funding more women entrepreneurs than the national average. According to First Round Capital’s review of their own holdings, female founders’ companies out-performed their male peers’ by 63% in terms of creating value for investors. A study conducted by the Small Business Association determined that venture firms that invested in women-led businesses had more positive performances than firms that did not.
A few VC firms that have a high percentage of female partners have invested in some well-known successes founded by women. One such firm, the Perkins Fund, has launched standouts like Goldieblox, a toy company founded by a woman engineer who captured mainstream attention with girl-centric advertising. The Perkins Fund has also had numerous successful businesses that are not gender-related, like 1 Mainstream, a cloud-based video service that was acquired by Cisco in 2015. Similarly, Aspect Ventures, a firm founded by women, has launched profitable websites like The Muse, Trulia, and Urban Sitter.
VC funding tends to go to male founders
Women-led businesses are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurship in the U.S., but they comprise a small percentage of the companies funded by venture capital. According to a Babson College study, most women-led businesses have been funded by the founder herself, or by friends and family. While this is true of start-up’s in general, recent data show that in the U.S., firms that receive VC funding tend to be founded and led by white and Asian men. Indeed, fewer than 5% of all VC-funded firms have women on their executive teams, and only 2.7% had a female CEO.
Black women’s business ownership is the fastest growing among all women, yet women of color rarely receive any VC funding; a mere 0.2% of VC funding in 2015 went to firms founded by women of color. Some have observed that, despite the rapid growth in women-owned businesses, the VC funding gender gap has actually increasedin the past year, both in terms of number of deals and amount of funding. This lack of outside investment is a major barrier for many aspiring female entrepreneurs, especially in the technology sector.
Many explanations have been given for the under-representation of women’s businesses among VC-funded firms. Some argue that women simply are not seeking VC funding. Others counter that having fewer women founders as role models contributes to fewer women seeking start-up funding. All of these explanations focus on the women, but research suggests that the VCs themselves may be the culprits. When women do seek funding, venture capitalists do not respond positively when their business concepts fall outside of traditionally “feminine” areas such as fashion or children’s products.
Why don’t VC firms fund more women founders?
Examining the funding discrepancy between male and female founders, the Small Business Association posits that VC firms tend to avoid risk, and therefore, they invest in familiar social networks. Venture capital firms are overwhelmingly male, and men tend to have social networks filled with men. So due to the VC firms’ composition, they tend to fund individuals like themselves.
Examining how this looks in practice, Tech Crunch has shared that among the top 100 venture capital firms in its global portfolio based on longevity, investing, and fund size, 38% had a female investing partner. Looking across a wider sample of 2,300 venture and micro-venture firms in their database, Tech Crunch reports that only 8% of all firms’ full-time investing partners were women. This disparity raises the prospect that having a female investment partner may have helped those at the top.
We know from other research that venture capital firms with a female partner are more than twice as likely as firms without a female partner to invest in a company with a woman on the management team (34% vs 13%); and they are three times as likely to invest in women CEOs (58% vs 15%). So the lack of women investing partners in VC firms is not only a problem of homogeneity within VC firms, but also has significant implications for whose ideas VC firms support.
The importance of these social networks has been shown in laboratory experiments. In one study, women seeking initial-stage funding saw a dramatic increase in investment when they had a social connection with the male VC. This social connection functioned to alleviate uncertainty about the female entrepreneur. While having a social connection to a VC also helped men seeking funding, the positive benefits for the women were significantly higher.
Even with a social connection or a technology background, however, women entrepreneurs may still be disadvantaged in ways they can’t control. In laboratory settings and in actual pitch competitions, investors preferred entrepreneurial pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared with pitches presented by female entrepreneurs, even when the content of the pitch was the same. Studies have also found that VCs talk about men and women entrepreneurs differently, and that they ask them different types of questions, which can ultimately affect the funding they receive.
These findings aren’t surprising in light of what we know about unconscious biases and how they influence what we believe about who fits or doesn’t fit into a job or field. When a certain type of person is associated with a certain type of job or a field, then those that stand out from the norm—those who show a “lack-of-fit” in some way—are viewed with skepticism and must work much harder to prove their worth. And our current image of who is a successful entrepreneur, formed largely by the media and popular culture, conforms to a male ideal.
What VC firms can do
While more research is needed to fully understand the influence of gender on VC funding and on what factors determine an entrepreneur’s financial success, there are two steps venture capitalist firms can take now to increase the diversity of their portfolios:
Avoid unconscious bias about “lack-of-fit.” The VC world could take a lesson from orchestras, which were male-dominated prior to the 1970s. Once they began implementing blind auditions, the number of women advancing out of preliminary rounds instantly increased by 50%. Our work in the tech industry has found that blind resumes and blind work samples have been used to reduce unconscious bias against names that suggest a particular race or gender. Looking beyond “fit” in other ways could enable more VC firms to hire and fund women. VC firms should also consider implementing blind hiring practices. For deciding whom to fund, VCs could “assign a devil’s advocate or require a unanimous partner vote” to enable them to overcome their cognitive biases.
Actively seek out women founders where they network. In urban centers around the U.S., women seeking to share ideas and start companies are flocking to meet-ups with like-minded women and partnering with local chambers of commerce. Connecting with these existing networks could yield promising leads.
The goals of venture capital firms and women-led businesses are the same: to expand marketplaces and to make money. VC firms that are female-founder friendly can make more gender-diverse investment choices and realize great profits as a result.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: HBR.COM
Entrepreneurship was once considered a man's domain, but the tide has shifted: More than 9 million U.S. firms are now owned by women, employing nearly 8 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in sales, according to 2015 data from the National Association of Women Business Owners.
“While the numbers are growing, there are still too few female investors and startup entrepreneurs, which can make it more challenging to raise capital and find mentors," said Megan Smyth, CEO and co-founder of FitReserve. "Network and you will discover that there are plenty of women and men who are eager to advocate for and mentor female entrepreneurs.” [See Related Story: Women Seeking Mentors: Empowerment for Success]
Although more women are embracing entrepreneurship, they often face challenges not typically shared by their male counterparts. To shed light on some of these disparities, female CEOs spoke with Business News Daily about the key challenges women entrepreneurs face and how to overcome them.
1. Defying social expectations
Most female business owners who have attended networking events can relate to this scenario: You walk into a crowded seminar and can count the number of women there on one hand. When women entrepreneurs talk business with primarily male executives, it can be unnerving.
In this sort of situation, women may feel as though they need to adopt a stereotypically "male" attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive and sometimes overly harsh. But successful female CEOs believe that remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived expectations.
"Be yourself, and have confidence in who you are," said Hilary Genga, founder and CEO of women's swimwear company Trunkettes. "You made it to where you are through hard work and perseverance, but most importantly, you're there. Don't conform yourself to a man's idea of what a leader should look like."
Some women also may worry about coming off as too aggressive. But Alexandra Pierson, founder and CEO of social media app springpop, urged fellow female entrepreneurs not to be concerned about this. Pierson noted that, during early negotiations for app development deals, she often was afraid to be firm and clearly state what she believed to be fair.
"I eventually learned that, woman or not, my business would fail if I refused to defend or fight for it," Pierson said. "Since then, I no longer worry about being seen as aggressive." [See Related Story: 17 Reasons Women Make Great Leaders]
2. Limited access to funding
Not all startup founders look for investors to help get their businesses off the ground, but those who do know how difficult the pitching process can be. Raising capital is even more difficult for women-owned firms: A 2014 Babson College report found that less than 3 percent of venture-capital-funded companies had female CEOs.
Bonnie Crater, president and CEO of sales and marketing analytics company Full Circle Insights, said venture capitalists tend to invest in startups run by people of their own "tribe" — for instance, a Stanford-educated investor will want to back a Stanford alum's business. This means that VC firms with female partners are more likely to invest in women-run startups. But according to the Babson report, that accounts for only 6 percent of U.S. firms. Women looking for business investors should build confidence through a great team and business plan, Crater advised.
Investors typically look for businesses that can grow their valuation to over $1 billion, Crater said. "Think about how to do that," she advised. "If you have experts on your founding team that can execute the business [operations] well, investors will have confidence in those people. [You also] need a good product market fit."
Another way to overcome this issue is by working to get more female investors involved in supporting one another, said Felena Hanson, founder of Hera Fund, a female angel investor group. According to Hanson, groups like hers are "looking to not only inspire and encourage female investors, but to grow and support other female entrepreneurs through both funding and strategic educational workshops."
3. Playing with the boys
Most would consider any given field to be male-dominated. It's even more of a challenge when you're coming in as a female having to give direction to males that may not want any direction. Alison Gutterman, CEO and president of Jelmar learned just that early in her career.
“As a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry, earning respect has been a struggle," she said. Early in her career at Jelmar, she was managing men in their 40s when she was only 25. "They were more experienced than I and often dismissed my new ideas about marketing and sales, and some assumed I didn't have the drive to put in the long hours and hard work they did."
She notes she's heard it all: from being dismissed as just the boss' daughter to presumptions that she was living off her father's and grandfather's reputation, as they were the previous owners.
"I was more than willing to put in the work to create my own reputation for being a hardworking, honorable businessperson in my own right," Gutterman said. "To overcome this, I have had to learn to build my confidence and overcome my negative self-talk, or as I like to call it, ‘head trash.’"
Gutterman defines "head trash" as all the negative comments from yourself, likely stemming from others, you have let build up in your head.
"They’re stopping you from reaching your full potential. One of the best things I’ve done to help me in this area is joining a variety of women entrepreneur groups," she said. "These groups have provided me mentors and peers to inspire me, hit me with reality checks on my capabilities and successes and help be grow and learn from their outside perspectives and experiences.”
4. Owning your accomplishments
The communal, consensus-building qualities encouraged in young girls can leave women unintentionally downplaying their own worth. Molly MacDonald, founder and CEO of The Mobile Locker Co., a startup that provides personal storage for events, said she has always found it difficult to convey her own worth as a leader.
"When I talk about the company … I always find myself saying 'we' instead of 'I,'" MacDonald said. "I know I have fallen into this pattern for two reasons: Using the first person to discuss successes feels to me as if I'm bragging, and I cannot shake the idea that if someone knows it's just me in control, the value of what we do will go down. As I grow the business, I am making an effort to own what I've accomplished."
Similarly, Shilonda Downing, founder of Virtual Work Team, advised women to recognize the value of their creative ideas.
"I've had to catch myself on occasion when I noticed that I'm giving away too much without a financial commitment from a potential client," Downing said. "[I] recommend other women value their knowledge as well."
Sharon Rowlands, CEO of digital marketing firm ReachLocal, agreed that confidence is the key to success, even when you're up against a boardroom full of men. Rowlands noted that when she was a newly appointed CEO, she often felt her ideas received more scrutiny than those from her male colleagues. However, she didn't let that discourage her from being a great business leader.
"I had confidence in my abilities to run the business," Rowlands told Business News Daily. "I just made sure that any initiative I was trying to move forward was backed up by a solid business case. I was never unprepared for the questions that I knew would come. I [also] think many women naturally have extraordinary common sense, a sharp intuitive sense and a great focus on people. These are extremely valuable in business and can help to set us apart as leaders."
5. Building a support network
Forty-eight percent of female founders report that a lack of available advisers and mentors limits their professional growth, according to Inc.
"With the majority of the high-level business world still being dominated by men, it can be hard to blaze your own path and facilitate the introductions and connections into some of the more elite business networks," said Hanson, who established the Hera Hub co-working space to foster support and collaboration among female entrepreneurs. "As most of business today still rings true with the philosophy that 'It's not what you know; it's who you know,' this can be a huge factor in your ultimate success."
Knowing where to find the right support network isn't always easy. A few good places to start include women-focused networking events — such as Womancon, Women in Technology Summit and WIN Conferences— as well as online forums and groups created specifically for women in business, such as Ellevate Network.
6. Balancing business and family life
Work-life balance is a goal of many entrepreneurs regardless of their gender, but mothers who start businesses have to simultaneously run their families and their companies. And in this area, traditional gender expectations often still prevail.
"Being a mother while running a business is very challenging," Genga said. "There are ways to balance your time, but the perception is that you could be more effective running your business if you didn't have to deal with kids."
Genga said she has learned not to take shortcomings on either front too seriously, and to not beat herself up over the little things, such as missing a class trip with her children.
"Mompreneurs" have dual responsibilities to their businesses and to their families, and finding ways to devote time to both is key to truly achieving that elusive work-life balance, she said.
7. Coping with a fear of failure
According to Babson College's 2012 Global Entrepreneur Monitor, the fear of failure is the top concern of women who launch startups. Failure is a very real possibility in any business venture, but Delia Passi, CEO of WomenCertified and founder of the Women's Choice Award, said it shouldn't be viewed as a negative.
"You need to have massive failure to have massive success," Passi said. "You may need 100 'noes' to get one 'yes,' but that one 'yes' will make you more successful tomorrow than you were today."
Pierson offered similar advice for female entrepreneurs, encouraging them to work through the moments of self-doubt that every business owner faces.
"I have stopped worrying if people will treat me differently in business because of my gender … and have stopped comparing myself to others, including men," she said. "The bottom line is, if you're successful, no one cares whether you are man or a woman."
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