Female Founders

Danielle Tate, author of Elegant EntrepreneurFemale Founders

Female Founders is a new feature at Startup Owl. Among other things it lists over 30 sources of startup and early-stage funding that are specifically aimed at female founders. There is pointed advice from female founders for intending female entrepreneurs. The page is written by Will Keyser in conjunction with Danielle Tate, founder of misnowmrs.com and author of the Elegant Entrepreneur

Why do I as a male think the issue of the low proportion of businesses that are created by female founders is important? Because we need men and women as founders. While we also need gender not to be a determining factor in the founding and development of new ventures, we need to dramatically increase the numbers of women involved in entrepreneurial leadership.

There is a thread of gender imbalance throughout the economy. The one-sided, male-dominated control of major corporations and Wall Street has a ripple impact on the availability, maybe insidiously, of investment funding for female-founded businesses. This is not a cause of there being so many fewer female founders than male ones, but creates an atmosphere of expectation. Expectation that anyone called an entrepreneur will be male.

While half of US investment capital comes from women, women are severely under-represented on the other side of the desk.  According to Women in Fund Management: A Road Map for Achieving Critical Mass – and Why it Matters, from Re:Gender, (formerly the National Council for Research on Women), women represent a scant 10 percent of traditional mutual fund managers and an even lower percentage in alternative investments fields. Only 3 percent of approximately 9,000 hedge funds have a woman in charge. Though the report dates to 2009, my impression is that the proportion has changed not much since.

A similar situation exists in other sectors of the money business. Women make up over half of the US population, and they control the majority of consumer spending. They earn more college degrees than men, but they still aren’t in charge of many investments, but there are said to be only 9% of fund managers who are women. Some shining examples exist, though. One is Systematica Investments, launched last year, was founded by Leda Braga and manages over $8 billion. Only 2% of the $12.6 trillion in US stock mutual funds is handled by female investment managers, according to a report by Morningstar last year.

Female Founders are growing in number, though, and this is significant given that they are vital to

  • instilling a cultural rebalancing of society,
  • strengthening the depth of the economy, and
  • re-ordering priorities in business life.

As I said to Gail Cooper, VP of Programs, at Re:Gender, this is not that I’m like my historical British female compatriot, Emmeline Pankhurst the suffragette who chained herself to railings to promote women’s suffrage. But I do want to see a radical change in the number of women starting businesses and being cofounders with men.