A recent article in the Boston Globe issues a call to action for current venture capital firms to invest in women as well as for women to begin their own venture capital firms due to the current lack of funding by private companies for female entrepreneurs. They cited Jules Pieri, a former executive of Stride Rite and Continuum, who, when pitching her e-commerce site, was met with sexism and was not being taken seriously. Therefore, the Globe suggest women create their own firms following the lead of 10+ female entrepreneurs in Boston and for current male venture capitalists to step into the 21st century and realize how valuable female entrepreneurs truly are.
In addition, the U.S. government's Small Business Administration conducted an extensive report on funding women-led businesses, or WLBs. The report concluded that venture capital firms that invested in WLBs lead to positive return on investment, but found that the male-dominant venture capital industry fails to invest in women as frequently because the women are not in their network. The report also shows that because WLBs do so well, there is a lot of "untapped potential for innovation, job creation, and other economic contributions."
With all this in mind, here are some tips to beat the bias and help you get investors:
1) Dress for the part
Luckily for men, they have a socially mandated "uniform" (i.e. suit and tie, slacks and collared shirt, etc). However, women have a broad spectrum of choices, and sometimes clothes can be a hindrance to women whether it distracts the audience or the outfit is uncomfortable to wear. Find workwear that tailors to your job, your needs, and your taste and then stick with what works best. If you feel confident and prepared then it will lead to noticeable confidence.
2) Be confident and assertive
Presentation is key. Ensure that during a presentation you speak with confidence and assert your knowledge and the quality of your product. Just like with clothing, if you act confident then you will be more convincing with the investors!
The SBA study found that a lot of firms preferred to invest where they felt "safe" or a sense of familiarity with the company. If you, even as a woman, have contacts with members of their network, that will automatically increase your chances of accruing some money for your project. Attending annual events like our MACsWomen Summit where we bring women entrepreneurs in front of corporate sponsors and high-level professionals is a perfect opportunity to network and practice your pitching skills in front of an expert panel.
4) Find common interests
Common ground will form a solid base upon which you can form that essential network. If you can talk about sports, news, or politics with your investors then they will be more likely to form a connection and be more receptive to your pitches in the future.