“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” – 26 years ago Madeleine AllBright, the first female U.S Secretary of State spoke these controversial words and the phrase sparked thought in women around the world. The AllBright was created to empower women to do just that – help other women believe they can get to where they want to, build the ecosystem to do it, and then become what they set out to.
Reflecting on this statement, the belief part is clear to me, however our ecosystem has some gaps. I feel privileged to join an AllBright Pitch Day panel to support female entrepreneurs, who when it comes to securing investment, are statistically behind the curve.
Over the past 14 years, I’ve met many entrepreneurs from different geographies, backgrounds, stages or sectors and have advised them on capital raises. However, I can probably count on one hand the number who were female! So to be part of a Pitch Day where six women present their business ideas is an exciting and novel opportunity. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
As I look across the room, I see a group of people who recognise the value of this event, and it suddenly strikes me that the opportunity for investors is as equally exciting as it is for those raising the capital. As an economist by training, I notice a supply-demand imbalance. A relatively large supply of female entrepreneurs with limited capital available to support. For the investors present, they could be in the fortunate position to be an early mover.
So why is it that women struggle to raise capital for their businesses? I can’t quite answer the question… Is it a genuine scarcity of female entrepreneurs or is it investor bias, or perhaps a combination? Are women behaviourally less inclined to take risk or is that what we are led to believe?
I leave the event inspired by the talent I have seen and by the audience – professional investors looking to support female founded businesses. So, if such talent exists, why do we need places like The AllBright? In my opinion, it is because we are statistically playing catch up. We need to accelerate the growth of quality female founded businesses and then increase the noise around the successes. This will hopefully inspire women and lead to the creation of more businesses.
This matters because we will see businesses emerge from a more diverse population that will appeal to and represent a wider consumer base. Female entrepreneurs become female employers and can continue to promote important values around equal pay and fair opportunities. Ultimately, extracting value from a talent pool which has yet to be fully mobilised.
We need these entrepreneurs in our world and we need to give them a fair shot.