This article was first published on Programme EVE.
Women make the world go round. More than half of the world’s population, women are the world’s most powerful consumers driving 70–80% of all purchasing decisions. I believe that women entrepreneurs are the biggest untapped resource to re-ignite the global economy. However, the path to seizing that opportunity is not yet clear. Let’s look behind-the-scenes of a global upcoming megatrend, the current barriers in the way, and what we can do to unleash huge economic growth for us all.
The Economic Gender Gap.
The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap Report tells us that if nothing changes today, it will take “202 years for women to close the economic gender gap … progress has been slow, especially in terms of participation of women in labour force, where the gender gap slightly reversed.” In my 2015 TEDx talk on investing in female founders, that gender gap was estimated to be 80 years. Why are we going backwards, what barriers still exist and what can each of us do to change things?
The unfair burden of unpaid care work
Forcing women to carry the unpaid childcare and eldercare burden around the world holds everyone back. Many reasons make this a complex situation to change.
Not enough women are entering the workforce due to cultural and historical norms that have shaped our society. According to the UN, women are responsible for 75% of unpaid care work in the world (housework, childcare and eldercare), on top of their lower paid, often part-time day jobs. In ‘Invisible Women’ Caroline Criado Perez asks ‘is women’s unpaid work undervalued because we don’t see it — or is it invisible because we don’t value it’?
She tells the story of how a town with frequent snowfall in winter reduced their healthcare budget for treating snow-related accidents. As the snowplows usually freed up main roads (where mainly men, drive their cars to work), authorities found that more women were injured on the complicated extra routes they had to take before and after work, where they had to take small, uncleared paths to make extra stops on their journeys. As a result, they were more prone to accidents. City council changed the snowplough routes and healthcare costs reduced immediately.
Japan is one of the first countries to lead the way. Prime Minister Abe made feminisation of the workforce a national priority through his series of ‘abenomics’ policies, including creating more childcare places, promoting men taking child-care leave and be more active with domestic tasks, so that women can get back to work. From 2012–2018, the number of women joining the workforce increased by about 2.9 million. Other countries are finally starting to take note.
Startups fuel the global economy
Women create 38% of new businesses worldwide every year, with 47% of total new companies being created out of opportunity and a 23% out of necessity. These startups actually fuel the economy and provide the backbone of jobs to many communities. According to the GEM 2018/2019 report, out of the 48 countries surveyed, only 6 show equal entrepreneurship rates between men and women. Imagine the impact if we increased new startups created by women up to 50%?
Yet Female-led startups only get 3% of total Venture Funding
When it comes to funding, the playing field is definitely not level for female founders. Access to capital is still the number one barrier for them today. According to Crunchbase, female-only founded startups got 3% of the total Venture capital last year. Nothing has changed over the past 10 years! At early-stage venture capital level, women-only teams raise on average $77 for every $100 a male founded team raises since 2010. Why? Only 8% of venture capitalists worldwide are women, and investors tend to invest in what they know and feel comfortable with (usually young white male entrepreneurs) so unconscious bias is hurting our economy.
Many female founders do not feel welcome or taken seriously by VCs and only around 25% pitch for venture funding as a result. Environment counts.
Why should we care?
This letter was first published in “Dear Female Founder” by Lu Li and republished on the Huffington Post.
I am delighted to be one of 66 Female Founders sharing our entrepreneurial wisdom to inspire other women entrepreneurs. Together we have raised over $85 million in investment, generated over $1 billion in revenue and created over 2000 jobs. I think it’s important to amplify our voices, as change-makers and creators of economic and social value.
These are my personal messages to inspire other girls and women to become Women Entrepreneurs and share some of the key things I have learned on my journey so far. I have a 15 year old daughter and 12 year old son, and acutely feel the need to speed up gender equality. You have to be what you can see! Some day soon, I look forward to reading your letter here too!
Dear Female Founder,
Here’s the thing — a secret you know deep down inside of you: You already have everything you need inside you to succeed and be a fantastic entrepreneur!”
From one global woman entrepreneur to another, I have 5 key messages to help you on your unique journey.
1. Be Yourself
My mother would often write those wise words to me, when I was younger. As Oscar Wilde put it “Be yourself — everyone else is already taken." As an entrepreneur, you really have the opportunity and owe it to yourself to truly be yourself. The more authentic you are, showing the real you (yes, ‘warts and all’) the better you will resonate with customers, your team, your investors, other stakeholders and most of all, yourself. Being an entrepreneur, a changemaker, someone who sees a problem they passionately want to fix and does everything in their power to fix it, takes a huge amount of energy.
You will have many decisions to make every day, you can’t waste energy trying to be someone else, or hide behind a mask.
Your team will follow you and go the extra mile for you and your customers, your investors will invest in you because of what makes you unique — your special mix of character, values, personality, experience, talents and passion. Your family and friends will enjoy your quality time with them, because you are the real you, at home and at work.”
I wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was 17. At 21, I opened up a Sales office for an Irish company in France, straight out of college, in an industry I knew nothing about. I changed sectors, roles, professions every 3–4 years, honed 5 languages as the voracious, curious learner that I am. Then I decided to be true to myself and my passion: help women leaders in business reach their full potential and create more gender equality — my deepest value. I founded Global Invest Her, to help Women Entrepreneurs get funded faster through demystifying funding. Every day we change hearts, minds, systems. We will not wait 80 years for gender equality — we are doing our part now.
2. Be Brave
Starting and running your own company is hard, and so worth it! You have to be brave enough to say no to a steady salary, clear career path and more stability than on the entrepreneurial roller coaster. You may create new markets, new products, new services or ways of thinking, so be brave and stand by the decisions you make. Expect and embrace all the ‘no’s’ on the journey to yes. Embrace your mistakes, be brave enough to own them, fix them and move on. Don’t beat yourself/your team members up about them. You have chosen the path of the pioneer, an unchartered course, uncertainty. When doubt rears it’s ugly head (it will) and that little voice makes you lose confidence…(it may)… it’s time to..
3. Believe in Yourself
Easier said than done, I know, and if you don’t believe in yourself, your products/cause/team /company you are building, why should anyone else? Trust your intuition and your inner voice. It is a powerful guide, ignore it at your peril. Dramatic as that sounds, it’s true that when I listen to my inner voice and fully believe in myself, magic happens and I increase my impact on the outside world. When I don’t listen to my intuition, I always regret it later.
You have more power than you can even imagine, so it’s time to unleash it — ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Doing a TEDx talk, being a keynote speaker at conferences and contributing to the Huffington Post shining the light on other amazing Trailblazing women are things I strived for and made happen. ‘What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve’, says Napoleon Hill, and my mind is burning with ideas to amplify women’s voices and gender equality so that we have the same opportunities our male counterparts already enjoy. Follow your passion, believe in yourself.
Continue reading 👉🏼
Global Invest Her
The global ecosystem of founders, investors, consumers, and leaders working to empower women entrepreneurs.