Ask almost any female founder in tech and she'll tell you that the stats on women raising venture capital remain dim. Despite the one-off success stories, the trend remains nothing short of depressing. And yet female entrepreneurs launch more companies and make more in revenue than their male counterparts, according to a 2105 Global Entrepreneurialism Report by BMP Paribas and Scorpio Partnerships. So investing in female entrepreneurs isn't charity, its good business.
Unfortunately, this unconscious bias against female-led companies remains difficult to crack. A study co-written by academics at Harvard Business School, the Wharton School, and MIT'S Sloan School of Management has shown that all else being equal, investors favored pitches by men 68 per cent of the time, even when the content of the pitches was identical.
Recently, Babson College published a follow-up to its 1999 Diana Project that showed some progress is being made on the venture capital front. From 2011 to 2013, more than 15 per cent of companies receiving VC investment had a woman on the executive team compared to less than 5 percent in 1999. However, only 2.7 per cent of these companies had a female CEO.
Venture capitalist firms with a female partner are twice as likely to invest in companies with a woman on the management team but unfortunately, the number of female partners in venture capital firms has declined from 10 per cent in 1999 to 6 percent in 2013, delivering another setback.
But as an entrepreneur, I see this challenging environment as an opportunity so rather than take this news lying down, here are three things many of us can do right now to change the odds:
1. Consider Angel Investing (Yes ladies, you too): When I launched my company, a mentor, who is a well known VC, gave me a list of high net worth angel investors he thought I should reach out to. Not one was female. I asked if he knew any female high net worth angel investors and he said no. It sounds scary but some angel investors start out investing with as little as $5,000.
"A very small investment can help a woman's business launch. You can be part of her early success," said Angel investor Susan McPherson. She advises women who have the means to invest on their own to do so and if not, consider joining a pool of funders. If that's not possible, you can support women entrepreneurs in other ways, perhaps by buying their products.
2. Publicize Success Stories of Female Entrepreneurs: Talking up female successes demonstrates that it's the norm, not the exception.
"Focus on publicizing the success of female entrepreneurs overall not just in media outlets that only highlight women," said Vanessa Dawson, Founder of Girls Raising and The Vinetta Project.
3. Men, Don't Speak on All Male Panels: I often attend panels or discussions dominated by men, especially in technology. This is problematic since it sends the signal that only men have the expertise in their given field. To their credit, some men are initiating change. Scott Gilmour, a former diplomat and social entrepreneur announced that he will no longer speak on all male panels. He arrived at this decision recently, after speaking on an all male panel and an audience member questioned why there wasn't a single woman on stage. He said he is following in the footsteps of Owen Barder, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Global Development Europe.
"I recognize that if you ignore 50 per cent of the population, you're never going to achieve what is potentially possible. It is absurd to suggest any enterprise that intentionally excluded half the talent pool could thrive," writes Mr. Gilmour. So take the Owen Barder (or Scott Gilmour) challenge and step up--or in this case, step down.