The World of Business Isn’t Equal – International Women’s Day 2018

 

While the opinions below are my own, I was compensated by Johnson & Johnson for this post

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you know that I can often be found pushing the agenda of diversity in business. Particularly (but not limited to) gender diversity. From my talks to social media shares to the initiatives I support. I firmly believe the world of business really needs equality advocates.

With International Women’s Day 2018 upon us, I was delighted to cover the subject on my blog. When I set out on my entrepreneurial journey a few years ago, I did so emboldened by my naïve experiences to date. I do not believe my race or gender had been a limiting factor in my career as a lawyer to that point. To provide context, there are more women than men entering the legal profession in recent years (although at the partner level this unfortunately drops off quite significantly, but I hadn’t reached that glass ceiling yet). Unfortunately, the world of business opened my eyes to quite how far we have to go.

I am sad to say it appears women are at a disadvantage when it comes to business. One simple factor could be the gender ratio of those that impact a start-up’s success; exited entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors – dominated by men. I will quite regularly be the only woman in a room during pitching events out of tens of entrepreneurs and investors. Deliberately or otherwise, investors are not backing a diverse set of founders. In 2017 only 2% of VC funding went to women. I repeat only 2%. At this point someone usually chips in with an argument about merit. It’s highly unlikely that 98% of male founders’ business ideas were more credible than their female counterparts.

I’ve personally encountered sexism in other areas, journalism being one. I’m not the sort of person to get phased by this, but it will naturally have an impact.

So that’s the problem – what’s the answer!? This is a long-debated question and much too in-depth for this short blog, but I think it starts with visibility. Those women who are successful making sure the world knows about it. Social media, YouTube, speaking engagements are all free channels to use to get your message out there. That’s what I’ve tried to do.

My equation is a basic one; more role models = more pipeline with aspirations for the top = more talented women to hire from = more women in senior roles = more managers likely to hire more women = more wealth among women = more women to invest = more funded female founders = more successful exits for female founders and so on. In a relatively short time this can become a cycle.

Everyone knows how passionate I am about my business The Link App. Yes, I want it to be a success for me and all the team/investors who’ve backed us. However, I also feel the weight to make it successful to showcase female entrepreneurship.

The above doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurship. It’s equally applicable in corporate environments, if not more so. Companies have the dedicated departments and resources to impact inequality.

One example of a company pressing for change is Johnson & Johnson. They’re committed to igniting the power of women to change the trajectory of human health. Johnson & Johnson has been championing women and providing the tools, resources and opportunities to succeed and #PressForProgress since its founding more than 130 years ago. By 2020, they’ll have reached 1 million girls ages 5-18 to inspire them to pursue education and careers in STEM2D (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing and Design) fields. I believe such initiatives are key and the more public, the better.

Check out this video to learn more on how they’re pushing for change:

o   Developing Female Talent video

For any ‘would be’ female entrants to entrepreneurship or those wishing to climb the corporate ladder, this is not a tale of woe! Are things equal? No. Are they going to be in 2018? Probably not, but are we doing something about it? Yes we are! Huge appreciation to all those women (and men) in my network that push for this everyday – you are making a difference!

IWD and this post are so topical right now. I’m writing this from Silicon Valley California where I’ll be for the next three weeks. I’m here on an all-female accelerator (think very competitive entrance and intense tech mentorship to shape start-ups). Eleven women from around the globe are being guided through the program by some of the best tech entrepreneurs in the world, committed to gender equality. Hopefully a post to follow about that too!

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