However, even with ample scientific evidence, we understand that changing belief is difficult. How do we get out of this cycle? How can we empower women entrepreneurs and support women-led start-ups? And how can we encourage VCs to fund women entrepreneurships?
We interviewed over 30 VCs, entrepreneurs and managers of start-up hubs and incubators. This is some of their advice:
- First and foremost, recognise that women do NOT take less risk.
- At the population level, women may display a slightly different risk-taking profile compared to men. At the individual level, however, there is huge variance in risk-taking preference.
One VC commented on this: “I have interacted with many women entrepreneurs. They are as good as the men, determined, driven and willing to take risks. The only difference is that there are fewer women.”
- Be aware of cognitive bias against women entrepreneurs. Rely on data to make decisions.
- Evaluate the idea, the business potential and the capabilities of the funders, not the “gender”.
One business development manager of a large multi-national said, “In the end, it is not about gender – men or women. It is about ideas and the business those entrepreneurs have built. (To make acquisition or licensing decisions,) we look at their business performance and (whether they) fit with our strategy… (it is) as simple as that.”
- Do the “blind-fold” test by asking a simple question: would I fund this project if the founder was a man?
One VC said, “When I have doubt (about a women entrepreneur), I would challenge myself to imagine the presenter was a guy. But in fashion, women sometimes have advantages, they know what they are talking about.”
- Always be respectful and stay professional.
One incubator manager said, “We are here to help our start-ups. We have many men and women. We listen to their needs and help them make connections. Caring for the entrepreneurs is basic.”
- Proactively manage the gender imbalance in the industry.
One start-up sourcing manager said, “We did not sit here and wait for start-ups and entrepreneurs to just come to us. We actively and continuously reach out to, and source, diverse start-ups across Europe.”
After her struggle and success, Jennifer Hyman (along with her co-founder Jennifer Fleiss) started Rent the Runway Foundation, an organisation to support women entrepreneurs and fund their ideas. Through role models like Hyman and Fleiss, but more importantly through an engaged entrepreneurial ecosystem, we can re-balance the start-up world together.
Dive Deeper: Psyched: Prejudice, Stereotyping & Racism in the Workplace
Before you go, check out this video below on a talk done with Sophie Le Ray, CEO of naseba, as she shares on her journey and some challenges faced working in a male-dominated industry.