How can you make more progress?

Founder and CEO at Modern health

It was 35 years ago when Congress designated march as “Women’s History Month.” But I believe there is a systemic bias to this idea: women’s achievements are celebrated as “women’s history,” while male achievements are simply “history.” While well-intentioned, the designation still perpetuates some of the gender inequalities and stereotypes that women face every day.

For women leaders, we’ve seen a lot of progress in recent years, including the election of America’s first female vice president and a record number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500† Despite this upturn, we are far from achieving equality.

It’s no secret that female-led startups are less funded compared to their male counterparts, but based on my calculations of the latest trends from pitch book, we are nearly 50 years away from gender equality. If the current year-over-year growth rate continues like last year, it will be 2069 when teams are all-female founded when it comes to VC funding with teams led by their male counterparts. Last year, companies founded exclusively by women achieved only one 2% of dollars invested in VC-backed startups in the US

It’s not just about diversity and fairness. There is also a strong business case for taking more risks on women. Recent research shows that companies in the top 25% for gender diversity in executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability, and companies founded by women generate higher revenues than companies founded by men, according to Boston Consulting Group

In addition to ROI, women-led companies tend to: hire more women, which is important for the economy. Given the pandemic disproportionate impact As for working women, it is critical that companies intentionally hire staff to pave the way for a full economic recovery where women are reintegrated into the workforce.

Despite being good for business and the economy, the boy’s club mentality continues to dominate the VC landscape. Almost 85% (registration required) of check writers are men who write checks to male founders. The reason for this may stem from institutional biases such as pattern-matching or investors supporting the same types of companies as in the past. Moreover, the VC industry itself is dominated by men. Nothing but about 12% of VC firm decision makers are women, but when these women make decisions, they are twice as likely to invest in startups founded by women.

While the solution isn’t to support startups just because they were founded by women, we need to break down historical barriers by exposing the systemic inequalities that created those barriers in the first place. To do this, we need to:

Start a movement to create real change.

We recognize that gender inequality exists, but to catalyze change we need a movement at all levels. Everyone needs to recognize that they play a role in one form or another, so we all need to ask ourselves, “Does this inequality start with me? What can I do to make a difference?”

Set up systems to level the playing field across the board.

Women take into account about 50% of the world’s population, so organizations, employers and VC firms must set up deliberate processes to equalize the representation of men and women. For example, every time a man qualifies for a role, a woman must also be similar to the Rooney rule in football. This practice has become extremely important in male-dominated industries such as sales, engineering and venture capital.

A female general partner is twice as likely investing in a female founder than in a male general partner. If this Rooney Rule-esque practice is introduced to the VCs, it will pay off. Investment firms with more female partners will invest in more female-founded companies, and those founders will empower their female employees.

But this kind of practice is meaningless if it is not enforceable. Transparency is the key to accountability.

Pay it in advance.

For every success achieved, we must create more opportunities for women. I have been able to look up to many role models who have inspired and guided me throughout their career. And because I’ve been fortunate to grow in my career, I’ve looked for ways to mentor other female entrepreneurs who represent the next generation of leaders. At Modern Health, we’ve also taken steps to institutionalize this with our recently launched Leadership Fellows program, which offers junior associates direct mentorship opportunities with me and others on our executive team.

Change cannot happen overnight, but with awareness and willfulness we are moving closer to a just future where women’s success is as synonymous with American history as men’s.


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