Have you ever come across a fact that startles you? That makes you stop dead in your tracks and think how is this possible? Well this happened to us last year in different ways, both of us (Rut and Maria) spent last year learning more about the world of capital investing and entrepreneurship. Both of us starting from the point of aspiring female entrepreneurs, actually that’s how we met at a networking event for female entrepreneurs.
1.The eyebrow raising disparities in the world of VC funding
What we learned on our individual journeys is that less than 2% of all venture capital funding goes to women. We were baffled by this very low number, because in our view we see so many more women being successful and visible in public arenas but still somehow, when it comes to seeking funding for ideas, women seem to be disproportionately disadvantaged.
This made us curious to understand more about why this is the case. We know that in many ways there has never been a better time for women to be empowered and believe in their own ideas, we see the progress that we also enjoy in our own lives. But still when it comes to getting funding for our ideas, our innovations, our contributions to solving big problems we’re just getting a tiny fraction of the institutional support that is out there.
2.Female Empowerment X Intersectionality
We both come from diverse backgrounds, from families that immigrated to the west from Africa and Central America for various reasons. So, naturally we became curious to see how Women of Color (or WomenX) as they say in the US are represented within the group of women who only get 2% of VC funding. The results were not unexpected, but still disturbing, LatinX women receive 0.32% and Black women receive 0.0006% of the VC dollars .This shows us that the mission to increase funding for more female entrepreneurs needs to be truly inter-sectional and embrace Women of Color and LGBTQ communities for it to be truly inclusive.
To give some more context on what’s really happening within the world of female entrepreneurship despite the lack of funding, it's important to highlight these facts that tell a powerful and hopeful story of triumph and resilience despite the odds:
● Women owned businesses are growing 50% faster on average than all
businesses nationwide in the US
● Businesses owned by Women of Color grew at more than double the rate of all
women-owned businesses (US)
● Women owned businesses continue to trend above all businesses (US)
Despite the disappointing statistics that show that female entrepreneurs really need access to capital, coaching and community in order to launch and grow their businesses, we’re seeing on a global scale, significant and meaningful growth of female enterprise through a high level of innovation and collaboration between women across all lines.
3.The start of a new era for women
Despite the disparities in VC funding for women, one of the most exciting developments within the world of global investment is probably that increasingly more women are funding other women's entrepreneurship ideas than ever.
We’re seeing growth for female led enterprise and innovation which is underpinned by women seeing each other, banding together and bankrolling other women's ideas.
More than ever before, women are taking up space as decision-makers as they’re moving into the world of venture capital, this is starting to break the previous norm where predominantly men owned these spaces.
A great example of this is more women moving into the role of Angel investors, which creates a potent opportunity for female Angel investors to apply their financial resources to female led projects that they care about to create a more equal world. An example of this is Wingpact, which is a global community of investors and entrepreneurs whose vision is to create a more gender inclusive world, co- founded by 6 women who are successful Angel investors. The 6 women behind Wingpact wrote a book called Impact With Wings to empower other women and improve the global culture around investment to become more inclusive (a very valuable book that we recommend any woman interested in this space to read).
More women are stepping up to the challenge motivated by finding an alternative lifestyle and more empowered route to a fulfilling career. Co-working spaces dedicated to women only make this alternative lifestyle more realistic for a lot of women. The Wing with the co-working spaces, are a great example of this, their mission is the professional, civic, social and economic advancement of women through community.
4. Diversity is Queen, not king.
We’re also seeing the growth of fundraising and in particular crowdfunding which encourages more people to realize their dreams while democratizing funding and giving more people (from diverse backgrounds) to tell their story (Source:Impact with Wings). A great example of this is iFundWomen of Color, which is a resource for diverse, early-stage entrepreneurs. iFundWomen exists to provide an option for women of color, which we know have an incredibly difficult time accessing funding.
This platform provides incredible value to Women of color by helping their dreams come into reality through raising capital via crowdfunding and providing grants, coaching and connections needed to launch and grow successful businesses, that they would otherwise struggle to get.
Another truly exciting development which capitalizes on the ubiquity of technology is the successful podcast by Arlan Hamilton called “Your First Million” which takes on a behind-the scenes perspective through interviewing successful investors and entrepreneurs and sharing their stories. Through this format, the listeners get a clearer understanding on what it takes to build a successful business and what the game of investment entails from multiple perspectives.
Arlan Hamilton is the only black queer woman to have ever built a venture capital firm from scratch. She is the Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, a seed-stage investment fund that is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women and/or LGBTQ.
Backstage Capital sees these underrepresented groups as the biggest opportunity in
investment, that has also invested in female entrepreneurs in Sweden who are WomenX. Backstage has now raised more than $7 million and invested in more than 130 startup companies led by underestimated founders. Just by its sheer existence, Backstage capital that only invests in high-potential founders from underrepresented groups shows us how much the landscape has changed. With Backstage’s intentional investments and their clever media presence, this venture fund is giving the often invisible entrepreneurs a voice and a chance to be seen.
5 The boys club is out and the women's club is the new in!
There is an undeniable chain reaction that sparks when we see female empowerment networks and groups coming together, to help each other, to increase the knowledge of how to take more risk and to be in control of your own financial status.
The question of equality is being drawn to the surface but we still have a lot of work that needs to be done in the VC and entrepreneur scene. There are still many WomenX that are not being recognized for the hard work and grit that they are putting in to make their company work. Even though we see a significantly increased level of collaboration between women and different spaces are being created for women to come together, empower and sharpen each other.
There are role models who have taken their own path and made it and have created their own platform to lift other WomenX in their channels and network, for example the female led networks HON and Feminvest in Sweden.
However, as a global society we need to do more to inspire more women to take the chance and start a business. We need to increase the diversity in c-level positions that are mainly man dominated industries like tech, science and finance. Overall, we need to lift and celebrate diversity in tech across all lines to capitalize on the innovation coming from all groups of society
6. Women have each other’s back!
These days there are slack groups where women are sharing their wages with each other so they can minimize the gap between their male counterparts for the same role. We are all in this together. The technology has provided us with the information to search and find more women in powerful positions that are using their roles to empower more women. Women are strengthening and guiding each other in how to take a seat at the table.
The old paradigm of women needing to act like men and stepping on bodies to be successful is dying out! Women are increasingly becoming more successful than ever through being feminine, through embracing all sides of womanhood (mother, partner, individual) and companies and big corporations that recognize this factor are becoming more appealing in their recruitment process.
More women are starting to define themselves and being true to themselves outside of societal expectations, taking more risks and chances. The shift that is happening is unbelievable and even though we would like it to happen faster, we can actually share some great news, that last year women in minorities groups started more businesses and took more risk than past years.
We spoke to two successful female leaders here in the Nordics about the recent exciting developments in the world of startups and entrepreneurship. We asked them about how we can encourage more women to this sector and highlight the diverse women that are in these careers, like themselves. Here’s what they had to say:
“We live in a click-bait era so most of us continue to do the work behind the
scenes because our names don't provide interest from the industry. I truly
believe that by putting the focus on business cases that we’re working on, and
addressing our great strengths that come from being underestimated and
undervalued we might find the right narrative. Unfortunately each time we get
access to business-oriented platforms we get addressed as a ”CSR" case and
not seen for the value we bring in business.”
- Nora Bavey is the CEO and founder of UNITECH an Edtech company and streaming service of IT talents in the Nordics.
“Acknowledge them. They do exist. Yes they do exist! and they will exist whether you acknowledge them or not. They are not a minority globally speaking, yes maybe they are where YOU live for now. But as an entrepreneur or any other cooperate to stay relevant you must look more broadly, meaning include those amazing ideas and innovation that’s happening around you. Reach out, learn and invest in them meaning don’t make them another project, when actually they are game changers in the society that we live in. But also start early with the youth. They are the future! Include them to help shape a sustainable planet.”
- Maryam Ari, Founder & CEO of Emms technology, a non profit movement and a platform where Women of Color can learn more about IT-development, participate in events and workshops about technology and engineering.
8. How to create impact together!
We think that there’s really never been a better time for women to invest, believe in their ideas, take risks and take a shot at fulfilling their entrepreneurship dreams.
There are a lot of women out there that are really active within this space, despite not getting the support that they deserve from the VC community, but they are still thriving through a high level of collaboration and through building necessary structures to educate and empower other women financially.
Not only are women building communities but also building up capital to be able to promote other womens ideas through investments, truly powerful and game changing. Women are succeeding through being truly more of who they are, and this shows in the type of work cultures that they are creating, and the type of ventures that they invest in, shedding archaic notions from the corporate world.
Internationalization is key in this area, we must leave no woman behind, hence why we are happy to see more WomenX specific accelerator programs, VC funds, Angel investors coming up. We are thrilled to see that more women are proving to be successful through investing in the often bypassed WomenX and LGBTQ communities.
We need to tell more of these stories because women in general, WomenX, LQBTQ-women are out there innovating, creating, building, connecting and making money despite only receiving 2 % of all the VC dollars out there. We need to make more noise and to build more community on and offline so that we can keep empowering each other and #ChangeTheRatio
9. Paying it Forward
Below are some resources from us that we want to pay it forward to anyone reading this article that wants to deep dive into the exciting space of female entrepreneurship:
Books - Impact with Wings
Podcasts - Your First Million; Feminivest
Join the conversation using the hashtag #ChangeTheRatioNordic
Maria Villanueva Co founder & CEO BeautyQlick
Rut Semere - Digital Media Strategist, Self Leadership Coach and Entrepreneur