Gender Bias

Women Founders And The Sexism Behind Fund Raising

Women Founders And The Sexism Behind Fund Raising
Image credit: Shutterstock

Picture this: You are an investor. Before you are one man and one woman. Both the man and woman are suited up, wearing their best formal. Both ideas sound equally good and feasible to you. We are talking big bucks here. Who would you put your money on?

Well, that depends.

Women are more likely to raise money from crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter than men. This is the finding of the research of Jason Greenberg of New York University and Ethan R. Mollick of the University of Pennsylvania. However, women take a hit when it comes to raising money from traditional gatekeepers like venture capitalists and angel investors.

Why is it so? Women fare better at crowd finding, because of the “activism” attitude of other female investors, the same research shows. It’s quite simple really - women tend to invest a lot in other women lead projects. But why do the same ideas not perform that well when it comes to traditional investors? Gender discrimination, bias and sexism are the only probable answers.

If there are about 10 men who are presentencing their ideas, there is just one woman to that ratio. So women tend to feel alienated.

Another interesting piece of research from Alison Wood Brooks of Harvard Business School, Laura Huang of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Sarah Wood Kearney and Fiona E. Murray of MIT's Sloan School of Business- shows that men are more likely to be objectified by investors for the way they look or dress than women. However, the same research points out that the exact, same pitch when presented by men is more likely to be lauded as logical and persuasive than dismissed as emotional when presented by women.

Women CEOs and fund raisers have also spoken out against the sexist and inferior remarks passed when they are out to get funding for their companies. One attractive CEO, writes in the Huffington Post, that she was asked if she wanted to open a strip club! Once, I personally encountered a person who asked me how he can put his money on me – an unmarried woman at the time. “What if your husband does not let you continue in this job?” he asked me. Another question that is frequently asked is, “What will happen when you have a child?”

Also, as per a study conducted by Current Biology, men are influenced to contribute when they see other men spending, especially if the CEO is an attractive women. “We found a remarkably strong response with men competing to advertise generosity to attractive women, but didn’t see women reacting in a similar way. Showing competitive helping is more a male than female trait,” co-author of the study, UCL’s Nichola Raihani, said.

So what do we do about this sorry state of affairs? Being a woman CEO myself, the only solution that comes to my mind is to have something like ‘blind’ auditions. Basically the pitch is presented to investors – but the gender of the CEO is undisclosed. All information about the idea is clearly specified – and a decision is based solely on the merit of the idea. In such a case, you are neither swayed by the man nor discouraged by the woman. This is of course a temporary solution till all men and women are educated about the deep rooted bias and discrimination in our thinking. Once this awareness is widespread, women no longer have to be stifled by something as irrelevant as their gender.

Do you feel discriminated against because of your gender? Speak up and let YourDOST help you!