8 Mar 2020, 12:30 — 5 min read
Background: The theme for International Women's Day 2020 is #EqualForEqual, because an equal world is an enabled world. A gender equal world is possible only if we all consciously choose to fight biases and challenge stereotypes. Sumedha Khoche shares the five questions that women entrepreneurs must not have to face in 2020.
Being an entrepreneur is tough. Being a woman entrepreneur is tougher. Not because the business issues get any more complex for them or because women are any less competent at managing teams or negotiations. It’s because, on top of dealing with the sundry challenges, we also need to deal with, what should by right be a non-issue: Our gender, and the consequences thereof.
Here are 5 real questions that came my way as I started Social Weaver (now KinderPass) after 12 years with P&G and Pepsico. These are the questions, I wish women entrepreneurs don’t have to face in 2020.
Pretty good. How is it being a dadoctor or a paparchitect? Do you enjoy being a singlepreneur? Putting a gender or life stage as a descriptor for a profession or occupation does not add value and is plain ridiculous. Men or women - people start businesses because they see a problem and because they believe they could make money solving that problem.
With a change in mindset, recognition and elimination of bias and a better support system, the startup network of investors and entrepreneurs can ensure that women-led businesses get a level playing field, with equal opportunity and equal scrutiny.
There exists this popular perception that anything started by women is somehow less serious, a border-line hobby or passion project that allows them to ‘spend time constructively’ while the kids are at school. However, if what you have in front of you is a duly registered legal entity, providing employment and generating revenue, it’s time you recognise that for what it is- a company is built with sweat and toil.
Actually, women entrepreneurs who are parents are doing this in spite of having kids. In spite of burgeoning emotional and physical demands. In spite of lack of sleep. In spite of having to juggle meetings and travel with school projects and doctor visits. Why would anyone go through all this anguish unless it is a meaningful and worthwhile pursuit?
Also read: Plugging the Leaking Pipeline
The classic mansplaining peaks when it comes to technical topics. The assumption being that women are more emotional and artistic and less likely to engage with topics related to engineering or operations. The plain truth is that women entrepreneurs are business people and would like to engage in any topic that shows them a path to better profit, revenue or productivity. Try it.
It is a patronising and condescending question but apparently a legitimate one. Women-led companies made up 4.94 per cent of all VC deals in 2016 (Fortune) and as an HBR study showed, they actually get asked different questions by VCs. In general, men got questions about potential gains and women were asked questions about potential losses, by both male and female VCs.
There are no simple solutions to this, and the way forward seems to be a combination of getting more women VCs; cutting out the unconscious bias (blind auditions) and evaluating the business on its merit vs the gender of the founder.
Being an entrepreneur is tough. But being a woman entrepreneur need not be tougher! With a change in mindset, recognition and elimination of bias and a better support system, the startup network of investors and entrepreneurs can ensure that women-led businesses get a level playing field, with equal opportunity and equal scrutiny. It’s just good economic sense!
Image source: shutterstock.com
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