“The number of US tech startups with at least one female founder has nearly doubled (from 9.5 % to 18%) in the past 5 years.”
Women entrepreneurs undoubtedly encounter all of the same, non-gender-specific challenges that male entrepreneurs come across. Yet, in this post, we dive into some of the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face and tips for how the business community can be more supportive of female founders. We begin with diversity in the tech industry, considering why and how to nurture it.
The advantages of women in tech
Women historically and in the present day encountered gender-specific biases in society, and as such one could argue that hiring a woman in your tech company improves the odds of bringing-on a person with the skills to triumph. Moreover, significant research supports the notion that diversity has a positive effect within teams. A diverse team composed not only of members holding distinctive opinions but also of ones with different genders and ethnicities promotes innovation and creates a safe environment for new ideas. Women especially can pinpoint unmet needs in untapped markets. For example, women now perform 54% of all car purchases in the United States. Subaru even targeted lesbian buyers in a campaign, which created a highly profitable niche market. There are many more possibilities to be explored, and women are a powerful force that can help discover them.
Best practices for driving diversity in tech
Attracting women to your company begins at the very first interaction between employee and employer: the job posting. Observing the trend that women won’t apply for a job unless they see themselves as 100% qualified, the Harvard Business Review reported that women tend more than men to feel the need to ‘check all the boxes.’ To attract more women to your company at the very outset, this research suggests that keeping the list of requirements for a job description short will encourage more women to apply.
Making a conscious decision to talk openly about rates of female employment in your startup is important. In particular, disclosing the number of female employees, even if it is lower than what you wish for, is a positive step. Another issue that occupies families is how women will transition back to their jobs after giving birth. Engaging positively with flexible maternity leave policies builds confidence in female employees that their careers will be unimpeded by children.
While compulsory job diversity training tends to have almost no long term effects, voluntary educational activities seem to produce positive results. For example, offering that your managers participate in college recruitment programs targeting women shows consistent results in increasing the percentage of women that stay on, leading to a 10 percent increase or more in women managers over a 5 year period. Mentoring programs also have positive effects because mentors tend to develop a positive outlook on their mentees. The important takeaway here is that companies need to stop leaving it up to women to mentor women. Companies should actively encourage men to mentor women as well through voluntary mentorship programs.
Two tips for supporting women entrepreneurs
According to one study, women face greater difficulty in fundraising as compared to men: “Male entrepreneurs are 86% more likely to be VC funded than their female counterparts and men were 59% more likely to secure angel investment.” We’ve mentioned the challenges in funding in a former blog post on effective startup planning for any entrepreneur. Seeking out female founders for your investments will encourage more women to enter the business world. Women, and men as well, can also pursue these nontraditional fundraising sources which were not mentioned in the previous blog entry: local community banks, credit unions, and other local financial institutions
Second, women entrepreneurs tend to have smaller networks than men. Specific resources exist for women starting a business such as courses for sustainable business by UNECE, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Business Project - female entrepreneurship (Iskit), Economic Empowerment for Women (EEW) and others. However, the business community can build on these existing initiatives by conducting outreach to cultivate relations with female founders.
 Women Made Incremental Progress in Tech the Past Few Years/Entrepreneur
 How Diversity Can Drive Innovation/Harvard Business Review
 When Subaru Came Out/Planet Money
 Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified/ Harvard business Review
 3 Successful Women Entrepreneurs on How to Get More Women Involved in Tech/Inc.
 Why Diversity Programs Fail/Harvard Business Review
 What’s Holding Back Women in Tech?/Wall Street Journal
 Why women entrepreneurs are far less likely to be funded/ Shivvy Jervis,The Guardian
 MASHAV - Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation with UNECE - The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe