How to Ensure Opportunity and Equality for Women Entrepreneurs Beyond Women's History Month Reversing the pandemic's devastating impact on women and gender equity will take a massive effort, which is why each one of us must take an active role if we are to succeed.
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This year's International Women's Day theme, "#ChooseToChallenge," brings with it a heightened sense of urgency. This past year posed a unique set of challenges for women, especially Black and Latinx women, many of whom have carried the heavy burden of caregiving and put their careers on pause. As a result of the pandemic, women's unemployment is four times higher than that of their male counterparts. For women entrepreneurs, the situation is just as dire. According to a recent Forbes article, "…just 26% of female founders reported having at least 12 months of runway, compared to 38% of male founders. That number drops to 19% for female founders of color."
Choosing to challenge means stepping up and getting involved at a time when gender equality in the workforce has been dealt this serious blow. We can all do our part to help stop the decline in advancement and ensure opportunity and equality for women.
Women lifting women
The women who succeed in the startup ecosystem – as VCs, entrepreneurs, executives and board members – are trailblazers. There should no longer be a need for others who follow to have to cut through the same obstacles. And yet, statistics show that for all the progress women and underrepresented groups have made over the past few years, they are still largely absent in leadership positions in startups and enterprises alike. This shortfall has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Women need to have a voice in the room, but they cannot be a solitary voice. They need a chorus to join them, and now more than ever is the time that women need to lift up other women. In the case of venture capital, research shows that when women VCs are at the table, 32% of their seed investment goes to female founders, double what male VCs provide to female founders. And overall, women are more likely to encourage diversity in their organizations.
Women in the startup ecosystem who have already fought their way to leadership positions know the hurdles and what it takes to get there. Building off of that experience, women can foster an inclusive culture, creating a positive domino effect that highlights the importance of finding exceptional candidates, including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ women, for leadership positions.
Taking action and getting involved
There are a number of organizations helping to lift women. One example is the nonprofit Women on Boards Project. It is helping lift women to leadership positions by offering women and companies the ability to connect and fill board of director roles. Another organization is CEOX, which provides a platform for nominating women to CEO and board positions and helps companies find C-suite female executives.
All Raise is a nonprofit that is on a mission to accelerate the success of female founders and funders in tech, building a more prosperous equitable future as a result. All Raise hosts female founder office hours and offers regular online events designed to bring together female founders, funders and operators. The organization has chapters in Boston, Los Angeles and New York City.
Social startup digitalundivided is a nonprofit that leverages data and advocacy to catalyze economic growth for Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs in innovation and technology. They offer training and accelerator programs as well as funding, professional development and access to mentorship and resources.
One more example, Women in VC, is the world's largest global community for women in venture capital to connect, collaborate and create new opportunities. They actively work with ecosystem partners to provide resources, educational webinars and virtual meetups.
Choosing to challenge by stepping up, reaching out and getting involved with any of the above (or other) organizations helping support women entrepreneurs will increase awareness and accelerate inclusion, pushing us all ahead. Reversing the pandemic's devastating impact on women and gender equity will take a massive effort, which is why each one of us must take an active role if we are to succeed.