Fair Financing

Female entrepreneurs are still working for it.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The numbers are in: Women head 38 percent of U.S. businesses yet receive less than 10 percent of the equity capital invested in American firms. A National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) study, which surveyed professional, corporate and bank-affiliated investors, as well as female entrepreneurs, found that firms led by women constituted 9 percent of all institutional investment deals and received only 2.3 percent of all institutional investment dollars.

VentureOne's quarterly survey of venture-backed companies with women in top management found that in the first half of 2000, 6 percent of venture-backed firms had female CEOs.

Faced with evidence that women get the short end of the equity capital stick, some prominent advocates for women in business offer possible solutions.

Nina McLemore

Chair, NFWBO

Investors and women need to change their attitudes. In the past, women focused on [businesses that] provided income, or served a need in the community or economy. They weren't aware of the potential to make big money.

Investors need to understand the subtle ways that gender bias creeps into their decision-making. Women say their ideas are heard differently or sometimes not at all. Women's organizations must train members to build high-growth businesses and showcase successful women to eliminate gender bias.

Denise Brosseau

CEO and co-founder, Forum for Women Entrepreneurs

As long as women fill the pipeline feeding venture-backed firms, it'll only be a hop, skip and jump to their own equity-backed firms.

Venture capitalists [typically] fund someone who has been on a successful start-up [management] team. But venture-backed firms with women in top management now [represent] 45 to 50 percent [of the total], increasing the number of women ready for that next step.

Investors also tend to fund technology businesses, where there aren't many women. More women studying science and technology, and programs like the Cal-Tech Women's Center, will help female-headed firms move from the laboratory to the boardroom.

Mary Walker, Ph.D.

Founder and president, National Federation of Black Women Business Owners

Black women have the same problems we had years ago. It's alleged that we don't write good [business] proposals. With more women coming out of corporate America and off of major boards of directors, this isn't true. Out of every 100 black women who apply for credit, only 10 are approved without hassle the first time. I want financial institutions with diversified lending practices, and women entrepreneurs creating more fundable loan packages.

Bonnie Wong

President, Asian Women in Business

It's more complicated than men discriminating against women. Venture capitalists like Jerry Colonna of FlatIron Partners tell me they get fewer business plans from women. But I also think men don't trust women's management style or see women as good managers.

The key is educating venture capitalists about female entrepreneurs who are good candidates for funding, and helping women become more aggressive when pitching business plans and seeking feedback.

Elizabeth Lisboa-Farrow

Chair of executive board, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

It's tough for women business owners to access capital, and even tougher for Hispanic women. I'd like Wall Street and venture capitalists to focus on women making money. If women can get capital, they can grow businesses.

Women need to get involved in chambers [and other organizations]. That doesn't mean just going to meetings. They have to participate.

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