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Reflections of a Naturopathic Physician Turned Scale-Up CEO: Inspire Inclusion for Women Founders

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is “Inspire Inclusion.” When we inspire others to appreciate and prioritize the inclusion of women*, we contribute to creating a better world. Further, when women themselves feel inspired to actively seek and embrace inclusion, it fosters a profound sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

I’m compelled to share my personal journey navigating the startup landscape as a woman founder. My transition from a woman-dominant industry to the tech and venture capital sector has been a revealing and sometimes challenging experience.

As a Naturopathic Physician turned entrepreneur, my journey into the world of startups has been nothing short of eyeopening. Having previously worked in the woman-dominant health industry, I was no stranger to the power of women in leadership and the importance of inclusivity. However, my foray into seeking venture capital funding has been met with a startling revelation: gender bias still runs rampant.

Despite strides toward gender equality, the entrepreneurial world still faces a noticeable gap between women and men founders. The numbers speak volumes: as of 2021, women held just 5.1% of CEO positions in Fortune 1000 companies, showing that there’s still work to be done in achieving balanced corporate leadership (Catalyst). This gap extends to startups, where women entrepreneurs often encounter challenges in securing funding. Despite women founding over 30% of all new businesses, shockingly, only 2.3% of venture capital funding in 2020 went to startups founded by women, highlighting the need for fairer investment practices (PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor). These figures underscore the importance of creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for all entrepreneurs, regardless of gender.

Reflecting on my journey, I’ve compiled a list of the top 24 remarks and questions I’ve received as a woman founder. From exclusionary inquiries about who helped me build my venture to assumptions about my family life and qualifications, these remarks highlight the additional hurdles women often face in gaining credibility and being taken seriously in industries typically dominated by men.

  1. Wow. You built this? Who helped you?
  2. Do you have children?
  3. No really who else is there? Who advised you?
  4. Smart lady.
  5. Go, Boss Babe.
  6. Girl Boss Power
  7. Good, girl.
  8. It must get so catty in your company with all those women.
  9. It’s so smart you only hire women. You can pay them less and still hire onshore.
  10. You must get a lot of grants as a woman led venture 
  11. This job must have better hours for your family than being a doctor.
  12. That’s cool that you call yourself CEO
  13. You must have a lot of help at home.
  14. It’s great your kids are older.
  15. Is your Dad an entrepreneur?
  16. Is your husband involved in the business? 
  17. You must have a lot of help at home. 
  18. Where did you learn all this?
  19. Wow you have kids too. How do you manage both?
  20. It’s great you’re a woman leader, we need more femininity and warmth in the tech community.
  21. Venturesplaining and Slowing down terms like: profit and loss statement, SAM, TAM, CAC 
  22. What a great project.
  23. What does your husband do?
  24. VCs are really looking to invest in women led businesses these days

Imagine a man being asked the same things? Would his qualifications and leadership be questioned to the same extent?

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s imperative to shine a light on the challenges faced by women founders in accessing capital and to advocate for greater inclusivity and diversity in the investment landscape. By challenging stereotypes, fostering mentorship programs, and amplifying the voices of women entrepreneurs, we can pave the way for a more equitable future. Together, let’s rewrite this list, dismantle barriers, champion women in leadership, and empower all women to thrive in the entrepreneurial world.

#iwd2024 #inspireinclusion #womeninleadership

*As a cis-gendered white woman, I acknowledge the privilege inherent in my perspective. It’s important to recognize that the experiences and challenges faced by women vary greatly based on factors such as ethnicity, race, gender identity, and socioeconomic status. Therefore, when I refer to “women” in this context, I want to emphasize that this term includes all women and women-identifying individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances. It’s crucial to ensure that the voices and experiences of all women are recognized and respected in discussions surrounding gender equality and empowerment.

References:
Catalyst: https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-ceos-of-the-fortune-1000-2021/
PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor: https://pitchbook.com/news/reports/2020-annual-us-venture-report

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