CEO of She’s A Crowd
She’s A Crowd is a platform where women can report gender-based violence, like sexual assault, anonymously.
The issue comes down to patriarchal society, Condliffe says. “Men have more power than women, and exploit that power,” she says. Thus, most investors and influential board members are males.
And then there is the bias problem. “People tend to invest in people similar to themselves,” she says. A white man tends to invest in other white men, rather than women.
Condliffe argues it is really important that we have more women investors and more women in leadership supporting other women. “But I also think because it is really a struggle for women to get to the top, once they get there they are less likely to take risks such as advocate for more women in higher positions,” she says. Women are still facing a lot of barriers in business which need to be removed. Condliffe says quotas could be a good approach to close the gender gap. And not just a tentative 10% requirement, but a 50/50 quota representing the share of the world population. Says Condliffe: “We need to see ourselves represented in companies and also at conferences like the St. Gallen Symposium.”
Partner and CEO of btov Partners AG
btov Partners AG is a European venture capital firm with offices in St. Gallen, Berlin, Munich and Luxembourg.
As an investor, Schweitzer argues that he has a positive bias towards female entrepreneurs. “Women think about something longer than men, and they tend to only start if they are really sure they will succeed,” he argues. According to him, that is why it is better to invest in women. “If I have two teams of entrepreneurs, doing exactly the same thing,” he says, “I very likely would take the female team.”
However, he argues, there are still too few women starting businesses. “This comes back to the fact that many fewer women want to create something new,” he says. Within the start-up scene in Berlin, which is the tech entrepreneurship hub for German-speaking Europe, there are about 40 women meeting regularly at networking dinners. Those initiatives are important and growing. “That is great, but there is much more potential,” Schweitzer says. “There is a lot of work to do.”
The work, he argues, has to start at home or at school. “Society seems to move both genders in different directions,” Schweitzer says. Stereotypes are already at play at a very young age. “When it comes to being an entrepreneur, this is really bad,” he says. “Girls need to be empowered to go on entrepreneur journeys.”
However, Schweitzer argues that the gender funding gap is not only the problem of the venture capital industry. “This is also an issue for women themselves. They only ask for funding if they are sure to make it happen,” he says. “They have to be a little bit more bold and sell some more uncertain things – but do not overstretch it and follow the very bad example of Elizabeth Holmes, CEO and founder of Theranos, who confused hope with truth.”
Co-founder of Female Founders
Female Founders serves as an ecosystem for female entrepreneurship.
Fassl says telling other people about how amazing they are and how amazing their company is, which is what most start-up pitches boil down to, is something women have trouble with. “That is because women are super realistic,” Fassl says. This is, in terms of sales pitches, not always a winning formula.
Like Condliffe, Fassl says women-owned companies get less funding than businesses founded by men due to a certain selection bias. Because venture capital firms all over the world are mostly led by men, Fassl says, “it is not surprising that those male investors prefer to invest in people that they can somehow relate to. And in most cases those are men.”
“Role models are super important,” says Fassl. “There are some female entrepreneurs out there, there are women CEOs out there, and we need to see them.”
There is also an economic reason to bring more female entrepreneurs and investors on board. “They bring this female perspective, which is the perspective of 50% of our population, to the table,” Fassl says.
At the end of the day, it is all about diversity. “It’s about having men and women equally represented. Diversity and equality are really important for our society – and economy.”
In order to close the gender funding gap, women should raise their voices and be more assertive. Role models and female investors are of utmost importance in making this work.