The award-winning #LikeAGirl video by Always asks the question, “What does it mean to do something like a girl?” It features the instinctive reactions of girls, boys, men and women when asked to run like a girl, throw like a girl, and fight like a girl – and, whilst humorous, is a somewhat sad demonstration of the in-built biases towards female ability that develop as girls get older. Growing up, I was lucky enough to be completely sheltered from gender bias: I attended an all-girls school in the Spice Girls heyday, and my mother was the family breadwinner, having founded her business when I was seven. But during my working life – in law, finance and technology, sectors not famed for their gender diversity – I have seen the attitudes in the Always video play out in a professional context, with many of my female peers losing confidence in their careers and starting to question their roles in the workforce.
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s “Women’s Report” found that, of a sample of entrepreneurs, only 33 per cent of women believed in their own capability (compared to 50 per cent of men), and 45 per cent feared personal failure (compared to 35 per cent of men). This no doubt contributes to the fact that there are only around half the numbers of women engaged in entrepreneurial activity, as there are men. Being an entrepreneur takes self-belief, and it is telling that a key barrier to entry highlighted in the Women’s Report is women’s own perception that they lack the skills required to scale a business.
The 2015 Barclays Wealth paper, “Shattering Stereotypes” interrogates perception issues, emphasising “the unconscious bias – and even blatant sexism” that exists in female entrepreneurship.
Seemingly to entrepreneur like a girl, is for women to be labelled as “mumpreneurs, fempreneurs and even lipstick entrepreneurs”.
One of the most striking evidence pieces cited in this paper is a study by Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT, that looked at the role of gender in entrepreneurial pitches, and found that male presented pitches were 40 per cent more likely to receive funding that identical pitches presented by women. At Seedrs, we often hear from female entrepreneurs who have had this experience when attempting to raise money through traditional (mainly male) channels. Recently Vana Koutsomitis, runner up at on The Apprentice and founder of Dateplay, wrote about how she found it difficult to engage investors when her male co-founder wasn’t present.
The good news is that other options are now available for female entrepreneurs to raise money, and they are taking advantage of them. Dateplay went on to raise £220,000 on Seedrs, almost double its target amount, from 359 investors – which, as Vana said, was “a pretty amazing vote of confidence.”
We built Seedrs to provide all types of entrepreneurs with the opportunity to raise finance in a more democratic fashion. But we have found that the platform particularly empowers groups such women, younger and older entrepreneurs, who might find themselves prejudiced against when pitching their businesses to offline angel investors or venture capitalists. Pitching online not only levels the playing field from a practical perspective, but enables entrepreneurs to reach a broader, more relevant audience. We also can’t ignore the fact that, for women who are juggling family commitments with running a business, it provides greater efficiency, flexibility and control during the fundraising process.
Access to finance is clearly fundamental to getting a business off the ground, so I’m incredibly proud that Seedrs is directly contributing to there being more female-led businesses. According to the Barclays report, women that have embarked on the entrepreneurship journey are at least as ambitious as men (often more so), and are very much risk takers. But to leverage that ambition and risk appetite, women need to face the perception bias head-on, even take advantage of it, and be prepared to do things a little differently.
At the end of the Always video, the question is asked, “Why can’t run like a girl also mean to win the race?” How about also re-defining what it means to entrepreneur like a girl?
Karen Kerrigan is the chief legal officer at Seedrs. She began her career with Simmons and Simmons, and as well as being CLO at Seedrs, she is also a director of the UK Crowdfunding Association. Kerrigan was recently named by Innovate Finance as one of the top women in fintech.