Why We Don’t Have More Women Running Startups

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By Heidi Isern (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0) Why aren’t more women-run startups funded? Because there aren’t more women-run startups!

According to Women 2.0, women found only 11% of technology companies. The question remains: Whose job is it to change that?

I recently went to Los Angeles to help conduct a panel with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs on the state of the economy. Topics to be discussed included the startup bubble, new accelerators, and financing options for 2012. The men outnumbered the women 4:1. Although this may be a great ratio for a dance party, it wasn’t for technology. However, I was used to it.

A woman on the left side of the room clearly wasn’t. She fidgeted in her seat as we discussed startup options, finding it difficult to remain quiet. When we opened up the room for questions, she leapt out of her seat. She didn’t ask about funding opportunities, but rather about gender politics.

She said, “I’m new to the startup scene and all I see when I look around this room is old white men. What are you investors doing to fund more women founders?”

The silence in the room made me cringe. Eyes darted across the table, each (male) VC daring the other to speak first and set the stage for political correctness.

While I’ve long been a supporter of women entrepreneurs, I know that banks and VCs alike want to invest in the best, regardless of sex. If more women were in the pipeline, there would be more funded women. However, the men in the room had a hard time saying that to questioning eyes.

They began a defensive diatribe on the (few) women they had invested in. I felt like I was in an episode of Seinfeld where George talked non-stop about his one “black friend” so that he could look politically correct.

The VCs had a hard time answering the question because there are not many women-run companies for them to look at. Is it their job to go out of their way to find and uplift them? Or is it their job to fund the best companies regardless of sex, age, color, or nationality?

If we want more women-run and funded startups, then it’s up to us to create more.

It’s our job to:

  • Support Women Entrepreneur Communities -- There are support networks that provide camaraderie, tools, and tricks for women desiring to start up companies. Women 2.0 hosts events across the United States. Astia has a program that propels women forward with pitches, connections, and advice. We don’t need VCs to create women’s clubs -- we just need to involve ourselves with the ones that already exist.
  • Become a Geek -- Although women outnumber men in overall college degrees, the number of engineering degrees received is still 80% men. For tech companies, you don’t always need a business co-founder, but you sure need a technical one. Running a technology company requires one to stay up to date on the latest coding languages and trends. Don’t have a computer engineering degree? Enroll in an online coding class from Udemy. Your value to startups will increase immensely.
  • Lead by Example -- The more female role models we have, the more women that are inspired to take risks, make sacrifices and jump ahead in a man’s world. Leah Busque (Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, TaskRabbit), Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki (Co-Founders, 23andme), and Julia Hartz (Co-Founder & President, Eventbrite) all took huge leaps of faith to build their businesses. They didn’t ask for help because they were women -- they just went out there and did it. The more women that trail blaze, the more will follow the path.

Only when we support each other to take risk will we see the needle move of percent of female founders. Don’t ask for help playing the game -- just dive in! And then….if we build it they (the investors) will come!

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This post was originally posted at Heidi Isern's blog.

About the guest blogger: Heidi Isern is a writer, strategist and entrepreneur who is based in San Francisco, California. She is the founder of Chameleon Endeavors, a boutique consulting firm that helps both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies grow their brands. In addition to working with Women 2.0, she also sits on the advisory board of the Fearless Women’s Entrepreneur Network and is a regular contributor to blogs and online publications that serve women’s audiences. Follow her on Twitter at @hisern.