Thanks for your tweet. We've thought about this a lot, too. I recently shared an article from Reid Hoffman on my social media accounts - The Human Rights of Women Entrepreneurs. It highlights behavior changes needed in the extremes but doesn't address the way day-to-day bias can affect women in all roles in tech. In summary, Reid believes that VCs and the startup community must:
- Recognize that the role of the VC comes with a lot of power and that power can be manipulated and abused in a relationship.
- If you see morally reprehensible behavior, it's your responsibility to disclose this information to your colleagues in appropriate channels.
- The industry needs to have zero tolerance for the abuse of power and the risk it puts female entrepreneurs at if we don't.
Now, on to the topic of the kinds of biases we encounter every day as women in technology fields. The good thing is this conversation is happening and people on both sides of the funding equation are taking stock. Women entrepreneurs are going into funding conversations knowing they'll need to overcome a lot of biases to be successful and are preparing to overcome objections.
It's important to remember a VC is more than just access to cash; it's an ongoing and intense relationship that will impact every aspect of your business decision-making process. The draw of funding is powerful, but it's important to find partners who see your value and the impact your product will make on the world because of your unique contributions.
VCs know that diversity in their portfolio is the path forward to future success. Just like we see big companies reevaluate the way they recruit and retain female talent, the funding community is starting to do the same. Here are some of my thoughts on how we can help VCs moving forward:
- Community leaders need to have honest discussions with VCs about the way their interactions with female founders are received. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Relationships are at the heart of this discussion, and it's not about calling people out publicly, it's about having constructive conversations to move everyone forward.
- More women need to be vocal about their role in the funding community. There are amazing female leaders in Edmonton that play vital roles in deal flow, company valuation, and financing. As a community, we need to do a better job of highlighting their impact (Startup Edmonton, included.)
- Take charge and tackle bias proactively when you're in conversations with funders. In the Harvard Business Review article Male and Female Entrepreneurs Get Asked Different Question by VCs, the research frames questions asked into two categories: promotion and prevention questions. Men are asked more promotion questions that focus on potential gains and women are asked more prevention questions that concentrate on potential losses. Study up, when you're in a pitch session or VC meeting - challenge prevention questions and reframe them as promotion answers. Modeling behavior change is one of the best ways we think you can challenge biases in real time that will have both short term and long term impacts.
Thanks again for asking us about tools & resources for VCs and female founders as they seek to fund their companies. If you have links to more articles you find useful, please send them my way.