It’s 2022, and 72% of UK women feel that there are biases against them in the financial services industry. This is particularly evident on the front line when it comes to funding for female founders where just 2% went to female founded businesses over the last decade. It’s not just regarding investment in female founded businesses where women are financially disadvantaged: more broadly, financial knowledge and confidence is significantly less for women than for men. And as a result, women lose over £1m over the course of their lifetime, through a lack of investing.
It’s a stark bias that needs to be addressed and there’s no time like the present. In fact, on the 8th March, International Women’s Day 2022 was focussed on “breaking the bias” and it’s time that the investment industry addressed the biases of its own to become fit for the female future.
How can the funding community take tangible actions to address its biases?
Shockingly, it’s been revealed that 8 out of 10 young people cannot name a single female entrepreneur – imagine what this figure would be if they were asked to name a female tech entrepreneur. This is something that requires proactivity from everyone within their areas of influence to give female founders a hand up. Those of us that have been there and done that have the power to point others in the right direction when it comes to accessing funding and connecting those progressive funders with equally progressive founders.
Today, 78% of women think they are lacking in access to networks and opportunities to build their businesses and realise their potential. Realistically, funding deals for entrepreneurs are rarely done ‘in the room’, and board appointees typically come through established networks – this is where the real influence lies. To break the bias, we must surround women with valuable networks and connections.
It’s everyone’s personal responsibility to accelerate the pace of change. Take the time to prove your belief in the future of female founders. Show them that you’re on their side, encourage this change and welcome women into the industry with open arms. We need to inspire change, not just for the present, but for the future too: if we celebrate and build up diverse role-models and equality change agents today, these entrepreneurs will form the building blocks of an invaluable platform to inspire the next generation, building a more equal industry for the female founders of the future.
How can women be better equipped when facing an overwhelmingly male industry?
Knowing what you’re walking into is half the battle. If you’re fighting an uphill battle to get funding for your business, then give yourself a leg-up where you can. In an industry where just 12% of decision makers at VC firms are women (Harvard Business Review, 2020), it pays to do your research and target investors that have funded other businesses like yours. In fact, the best opportunities can emerge from the most unexpected places so utilise your connections to continually expand your network. If one investor isn’t the right fit, ask them if they know someone who might be and whether they can make an introduction – it would be in everyone’s interest after all.
Fundraising is a marathon not a sprint and women in business often find themselves running up a steep hill at this stage of the process. Look to streamline where you can and minimise the chances of any avoidable setbacks by working with those who are already on your side. No matter how long you’ve planned for the journey to take, it’ll be longer than you think. As vital as fundraising is, it also takes you away from growing your business, building revenue and, most importantly, driving innovation. Make sure that your plans have mitigated for this and that those who are supporting your business venture and helping you to reach your goal can work as a team with a host of complementary skills when you’re not around to captain the ship.
Seek out a team who is as innovative and experienced as you but who aren’t carbon copies of yourself. Variety and diversity drives powerful collaboration. Jeremy Hill, senior private banker at Kleinwort Hambros and a partner of The WealthiHer Network, has explained how attracting investors should not be a one-woman or one-man show. Instead, investors will focus on finding businesses with great management teams and networks behind them. You want to find an investor that shares your vision, but also to be supported by advisors who can offer alternative perspectives and new ways of thinking that challenge your own status quo.
Determination, as for long-distance athletes, is a vital skill for entrepreneurs setting up a business. This is even more imperative for women when overcoming the hurdles they face throughout the process. It’s something that both female founders and their network of supporters need alike: determination to introduce change and resilience to get back up again after a setback and continue to break the bias as we emerge from a pandemic and set the record straight.
Know your value, be ambitious and hold your nerve. There will be setbacks and difficult questions along the way, but the determination of a powerful female entrepreneur can see her through. Use the inevitable no’s to strengthen your resolve: one day you’ll be showing them exactly what they missed out on.
Tamara Gillan, is the founder at The WealthiHer Network, and CEO and founder Cherry London