In this article, we delve into the personal experiences of five successful women entrepreneurs, including a founder and CEO and a VP of Growth, as they share their encounters with gender bias. From persisting amidst venture funding bias to shifting focus from gender to business potential, these leaders provide valuable insights into how they navigated and overcame such challenges.
- Persisting Amidst Venture Funding Bias
- Overcoming Bias Through Assertive Communication
- Highlighting Track Record to Counter Bias
- Securing Funding Through Resilience and Education
- Shifting Focus from Gender to Business Potential
Persisting Amidst Venture Funding Bias
As a female tech founder, I encountered years of gender bias, especially when pursuing early venture funding for my business, SupportPay—an expense-sharing app that resonated heavily with women, single parents, and divorced families.
Female-led startups received only two percent of the VC funds given out in 2022, so as you can imagine, I was told “no” countless times over the years. Too often, those rejections were accompanied by “advice” that reeked of gender bias.
One investor told me I’d be more successful if I were to “hire a young guy in a hoodie.” Another suggested that I dye my blonde hair brown, because “brunettes are taken more seriously.” Still, I persisted. Having tough skin, determination, and grit were the keys to navigating this complex and unbalanced startup environment.
Put simply, I never gave up and stayed true to myself. Ultimately, I found the right investors, ones who saw that my being a woman was an asset to the business, and have continued to grow ever since.
Sheri Atwood, Founder and CEO, SupportPay
Overcoming Bias Through Assertive Communication
I have been a Sr. Project Manager for many years, primarily in the medical field. I was assigned to a project that was failing. I was taking the project over from a male. The lead physician on the project asked the man I was replacing, “Is she smart?” He also said, “Should I even talk to her?”
I was floored. The gentleman I was taking the contract from shared that I was smart. I took over the meeting at that point. I told the male physician that I liked his directness. I said that I would have him be the sponsor for the project. I stated I would know right away if anything was going wrong. I made sure I looked him in the eye and smiled.
The physician shared he did not want to be the sponsor, but would do it. I made sure I checked with him weekly for the duration of the project. The physician changed his behavior towards me and became one of my favorite physicians. There is a time to yell and scream, and there is a time to let your talent do the talking for you.
Beth Smith, Life Coach and Owner, Thriving With Resilience
Highlighting Track Record to Counter Bias
Navigating the world of entrepreneurship as a woman often means facing gender biases that can subtly infiltrate interactions and decisions. I remember pitching my start-up idea to a room full of potential investors. Despite my extensive research and well-prepared presentation, I noticed many questions directed at me were not about the business itself, but rather my ability to manage and lead because I am a woman.
Instead of getting defensive, I addressed it head-on by highlighting my track record of leadership and success, and by addressing their concerns with data and examples of how I have successfully managed teams and projects in the past.
Overcoming gender bias requires a mix of self-confidence, preparation, and the ability to address underlying biases head-on without getting defensive.
Nyla Rose, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, JuseBeauty
Securing Funding Through Resilience and Education
As a woman entrepreneur, I faced gender bias when seeking funding for my startup. Despite numerous rejections based on biased assumptions and stereotypes, I remained resilient and persevered.
I educated myself on effective pitching strategies, honed my presentation skills, and sought mentorship from successful entrepreneurs. I also highlighted the unique strengths and potential of my business, emphasizing its value proposition. Through tenacity and determination, I eventually secured funding from an angel investor who recognized the merit of my venture.
Overcoming gender bias required patience and belief in my abilities, but by embracing resilience and perseverance, I navigated and overcame the bias to achieve success.
Yoana Wong, Co-Founder, Secret Florists
Shifting Focus from Gender to Business Potential
I once pitched my tech startup to potential investors. During the presentation, I sensed skepticism from a few due to gender bias.
To overcome this, I focused on showcasing the product’s market potential and profitability, backed by solid data. I engaged in confident and assertive communication, dispelling doubts about my expertise. This approach shifted the focus from gender to business, ultimately securing the investment and proving gender bias wrong.
Ranee Zhang, VP of Growth, Airgram