2017 was a powerful year for women--and anyone who supports women's rights.
It was a year where women marched for their freedom, where they spoke out against centuries of sexual harassment, and where women demanded equal pay. In many ways, 2017 was the year women were united to challenge the status quo.
However, as with any difficult and long-standing social issue, there was a lot of momentum but minimal tangible change--and female entrepreneurship is no exception.
According to recent research done by TechCrunch, the percentage of venture-backed companies that are founded by women have not increased since 2012.
TechCrunch also noted that only 17 percent of all startups have a female founder, and that the amount of of female founded startups hadn't grown since in the past six years.
This concept of inequality is seen across multiple industries, and affects a spectrum of minorities--not just women. As a society we tend to provoke a dialogue that pins the blame on a group of people.
In entrepreneurship, we don't need scapegoats. We need solutions.
It's 2018, and startups led by women still aren't getting attention. To many, this narrative is no surprise.
Heidi Zak, co-founder of bra company Third Love, diagnosed one of the most glaring problems in a recent Forbes article. Zak is a female founder with a product for women--she's able to understand a large part of the problem.
"A VC partner is making a huge decision when they're thinking about investing. They have to be passionate about the business, the founder, and the opportunity. They're pounding the table, working to convince people that this is a golden opportunity. The next best thing since Uber. And because the vast majority of them are men, I just don't think they have that passion for female-focused businesses. They don't use the products. They don't understand the need. So it's very hard for them to get excited about them."
That's a problem.
So, what's the solution?
The venture capital, and entrepreneurship, world is highly influenced by men, which inherently provides male founders with benefits female founders just don't have. Many female founders believe that one solution is for female founders go out of their way to support other female founders.
Jenny Abramson, founder and managing partner at Rethink Impact, agrees. She founded a VC fund that's investing in portfolio companies led by women, and is creating a platform to empower and better equip female entrepreneurs. Rethink Impact is the largest venture capital firm in the U.S. focused on woman founders, according to Forbes, which is incredibly impactful for female founders who aren't being recognized by most venture capitalists.
The more companies with women leaders, the easier it is to have a variety of perspectives in this space. This alone helps ensure women entrepreneurs--and their products--aren't easily dismissed.
They may not be abundant, but there are avenues to help women achieve their goals as entrepreneurs and small business owners. This means women entrepreneurs need to take the leap to seek out resources for successes. As Estée Lauder once said, "I never dreamed about success. I worked for it."
Male entrepreneurs also need to support female entrepreneurs.
With men being the bulk of the decision makers in venture capital, it can be hard for women to break through. But there are men out there who are working hard to even the playing field.
Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary is a great example. At Inc.'s Women's Summit this past September, O'Leary said that he prefers investing in companies led by women. After investing in over 40 companies, O'Shares Investments--Kevin O'Leary's Company--discovered that only 65 percent of the businesses he invested in with male leaders achieved their financial goals. Whereas, a whopping 95 percent of the female-founded companies had met their goals.
We're are also doing what we can to even the playing field as entrepreneurs and founders. For example, Bond Street is a company who aims to revolutionize small business lending through technology, data, and design. They also provide national resources for female entrepreneurs, and are a great example of what entrepreneurs can do to help female small business owners excel.
They aim aid by administering both financial support and encouragement, and offer a plethora of resources. The provide information, education, their networks, mentorship, and funding to female entrepreneurs across America.They even help with small business loans, and grants for women.
While entrepreneurs are creating some avenues to make this space easier for women to navigate, women founders are still being neglected. This is an issues that can't be left for one company, one person, or one gender to solve.
In the world of venture capital, money is easy to come by--it's the ideas, and the people who can bring those ideas to life, that are hard to find. So, by whatever means necessary, venture capital firms should think hard about how they can increase their pool of options.
We also need to be aware of the role we play in this as entrepreneurs, founders, and small business owners. Empowering female entrepreneurs should come from all of us--both male and female founders. It's a collective issue, and with that comes a collective solution.
More women means more deals. And that's good for everyone.