How the presence of more women in the venture capital world can pave the way for more female entrepreneurs

  • In April this year, a law came into effect which made it compulsory for UK employers with 250 or more employees to report pay gaps between men and women.
  • Iceland, a country that has the smallest pay gap between men and women according to a World Economic Forum Report, has a law which requires employers with more than 25 employees to prove that they are paying men and women equally or face a fine.
  • With 83 percent of women, including mothers, working full time, largely due to a well-defined public childcare system, Finland today has the highest share of women in higher education and the largest female workforce.

These examples are only a small cross-section of the conversations around gender equality in the workplace that have gained momentum in recent times across the globe. Some countries like the ones mentioned above have given more teeth to the laws around the issue and made them less ambiguous, while others are slowly waking up to the realisation that this issue can have a significant impact on the country’s economy and society.

While laws are only one aspect of this issue, the larger focus is on what we, as a society are doing right to achieve a more inclusive and balanced gender equation for workplaces and what we can change in the ecosystem to improve the situation further, especially in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) fields.

In a previous avatar, I was an entrepreneur myself. Since this was a few years back, the gender bias was even more pronounced, so much so that people found it difficult to accept a young woman in the boss’s seat. From then to now, I can safely say that while there hasn’t been a massive change in the perception around women’s ability to lead an organisation, there has been a substantial shift. At least, today it is acknowledged that women are as good as men when it comes to running a business.

The current environment is definitely more conducive for women entrepreneurs. That there are not enough women co-founders or women entrepreneurs is a narrative that may have been true in the past, but today this is not necessarily the case.

Take, for instance, my experience with the NetApp Excellerator. Earlier this year, when we launched the 2nd cohort of the NetApp Excellerator programme, we were happy to discover that three out of the six startups that made it to the final round either had women co-founders or women in key roles like that of CEO (the startups were Nanobi, Blobcity and Analyz). Incidentally, this was not at all premeditated. We didn’t go out looking for diversity candidates and selected only those startups that had a woman at the helm of affairs. It was sheer chance and, perhaps, a great reflection of the changing times.

What’s also important to note is that all these startups are doing some extremely meaningful work in the core tech space. Today, there are women entrepreneurs who are doing great work beyond areas typically considered ‘women’s work’. Now, we have women who are leading core tech companies and doing significant work in the STEM field.

If a woman has enough grit, determination, talent and attitude, there’s no stopping her from doing anything, as is evident from my own experience as an entrepreneur and has been demonstrated by the women leaders in our Excellerator cohort. YourStory’s own Shradha Sharma is another brilliant example of a woman entrepreneur who has made it big in the industry and is continuing to give a step up to those who deserve and need the support.

That’s another difference from the scenario years ago. Now, we also have more women in the ecosystem who are supporting each other, as mentors, angel investors, fellow entrepreneurs, and are acting as role models.

While the situation is definitely better than what it was even a decade ago, there is still scope for improvement. Let’s face it, starting up is not an easy job for anyone, let alone women founders who still have to battle pre-existing gender biases prevalent among the predominantly male investor community, about their ability and their commitment to the venture.

In fact, a July 2018 study by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) even calls out this discrepancy in the representation of women in the venture capital (VC) world. According to the study, only 8 percent of VCs in the United States are women. The study goes on to add that, “venture capital firms that increased their proportion of female partner hires by 10 percent saw, on average, a 1.5 percent spike in overall fund returns each year and had 9.7 percent more profitable exits.”

In conclusion, the study surmises that an increase in the number of women in the VC industry would make it easier for deserving women entrepreneurs to be successful and get funding more easily.

So, if you are a woman founder, you can be happy that there is no better time to be an entrepreneur. If you are a woman connected to the venture capital world, then this is the time and opportunity for you to do your bit and make things better for a new generation of women entrepreneurs waiting in the wings.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory or any other organisation.)


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