Why Venture Capital and Angel Investors Need To Fund & Mentor Female Founders & Women Entrepreneurs

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I woke up the other day and all at once my ‘Why” was confirmed. Have you ever had that moment in your life where you knew you were on the right path? A feeling like none other where you’re as fearful as tearful, awestruck and at a loss for words, but no lack of powerful emotions racing through your entire being… I did.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the honor of being influenced, inspired, educated, led and mentored by amazing female co-workers, bosses, executives, peers, intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs. Most recently I have been investing time with SheWorx, the Global Collective of Ambitious Female Entrepreneurs in Leadership. What started out as a chance encounter on Twitter has led to my declaration and reaffirmation to help redefine a systemic issue long overdue for change by democratizing access to investment, mentors and resources for women.

In the blink of an eye, everything became clear. This article appeared the other day entitled Why Male Mentors Matter written by Geri Stengel at [email protected] where she cited the following: “Diversity is a key to unlocking innovation, according to Innovation, Diversity, and Market Growth, research undertaken by The Center for Talent Innovation. Its research reveals that diversity is a critical factor in market growth. While workforce productivity gains always improve earnings, continued innovation is required to increase market share and open new markets.”

The Power of Vulnerability & How I Learned About Diversity From Women

Being vulnerable is the key to becoming self-aware. If we knew what tomorrow was going to be like today, would that be a good thing or bad? Emma Seppala, Ph.D and many brilliant women blog and post on social media everyday. I recommend Twitter for discovery (Hastags: #FemaleFounders #WomenInTech #WomenLeaders #Happiness #Motivated). Here is just one of many insights: “Why do we fear vulnerability? We are afraid that if someone finds out who we really are, they will reject us. While we may try to appear perfect, strong or intelligent in order to connect with others in actual fact, pretense often has the opposite effect intended.” In a room of 100 people, as a white man, I am but 1 percent, right? Seems fairly straight forward or is it? In a room of 100 people, if I’m a women, perhaps I’m 1% of the total but what if there are only 20 women out of the 100? What if I am one of 5 Women of Color, Hispanic, are you starting to see my point? And how did I gain this awareness….by actively listening. What I have come to learn and while this might seem obvious is that very little is obvious. Everyone has their own life experiences and if we are to solve big problems for many, it won’t come from the experiences and opinions of a few. Opportunities are all around us so how does it start?

Unconscious Gender Bias – venture capital and angel investors of all Genders: It’s time we own it and do something about it

We hear the term Gender Bias used more and more each day. It’s real, it’s an issue and as investors and mentors we need to do more. Unconscious or not, if we can solve problems like creating cars that drive themselves, AI that makes decisions for us, computers that beat us at chess and colonize planets to name just a few things our minds perceive as big “game changing” opportunities, surely we can address this one. Amy Rees Anderson wrote the following a few months ago for Forbes: “Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research found that in the workplace men are significantly more likely to critique females for coming on too strong. In addition they found that men tend to attribute a woman’s success to external factors and “luck” rather than attributing it to her individual effort and abilities as they would have for a man.” Studies also show that, whether men admit it to it or not, they are far less willing to put a woman in leadership positions. As one study shares, “Unconscious bias often also emerges during deciding on the right candidates for leadership positions through preconceptions of what “good” looks like, says Stomski, Partner at Aon Hewitt. While senior managers genuinely agree about the need for diversity at leadership levels, they still tend to fall back on unconscious beliefs when making final hiring and promotion decisions – such as the idea that it would be easier to align strategies behind people with similar backgrounds to them. The end result of this pattern is a management team with little real diversity.” No one person can do it all by themselves. Regardless of race, place, gender, age or national origin, we all win when we all win together. The first step is taking ownership of our own thoughts and behaviors, asking what’s driving them. Oftentimes it comes down to fear as most people are genuinely good. But fear of what?

Impostor Syndrome

Imagine living with Impostor Syndrome.  According to Wikipedia, it’s a concept (and one I have personally struggled with) used to describe high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes.[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.[2] 

From the 2015 article “Impostor syndrome: Why do so many women feel like frauds?” written by Claire Cohen Deputy Women’s Editor of The Telegraph, “It doesn’t matter who you are, imposter syndrome can strike at any time – and, paradoxically, it affects some of the world’s most celebrated women. Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has said: ‘‘There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.’’ The actress and UN ambassador Emma Watson has repeatedly admitted she feels like an imposter, as have Kate Winslet, Renée Zellweger and Maya Angelou. Countless pieces of research state that women undervalue themselves unless we’re absolutely certain we’re qualified – where men just wing it.

The key to beating Impostor Syndrome is by being vulnerable, authentic and sharing one’s fears. I’m putting my own hand up and admitting to feeling this way. And to all of my male peers, you can too. I’m not a trained professional. I believe that men fear vulnerability because we’re raised to believe that we’re supposed to have all the answers. And the irony of it all is that when reflecting on my life, in practically all cases, I went to my mom when I needed answers to life’s biggest and toughest questions.

How Can Venture Capital and Angel Investors Make A Difference To Female Founders And Women Entrepreneurs

If I told you that businesses who embrace gender diversity and female leadership are more innovative, profitable, and successful, would you want to see a business plan or speak with the entrepreneurs to learn more? Well here you go; Organizations that have female executives and female board members are outperforming organizations with all male leadership by over 53%. And while the average venture capital firm reviews approximately 1,200 companies in order to make 10 investments, helping female founders and entrepreneurs goes far beyond a financial investment. There is investment of money and investment of time. And while we can’t help everyone, we can surely do more. And collectively if we all do a lot more, the exponential results and impact we have will be significant. We use the term “product-market” fit and as investors, we’re looking for what it is. I would like to advance a new term which I am calling the “people-progress” impact. A little bit of our time can make a lot of difference.

The Ecosystem that Helps and Supports Female Founders And Women Entrepreneurs

We’ve compiled a list of groups that support the growth of women starting and growing businesses. Here are just some of the organizations that are available.

Accelerators, boot camps and leadership training for Female Founders And Women Entrepreneurs

Dreamit

EY Entrepreneurial Winning

MergeLane

Million Dollar Women Workshop

Springboard Enterprise and Women’s Startup Lab

Women Founders Network

Networking organizations that connect Female Founders And Women Entrepreneurs

Astia

Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN)

The Vinetta Project and Women 2.0

Co-working Spaces for Female Founders And Women Entrepreneurs

For more information on each please see Who Run the World? Girls Do at These 8 Co-Working Spaces for Women

The Wing 

Rise Collaborative

New Women Space

Paper Dolls

Hera Hub

Shecosystem

The Hivery

Whetstone Work Group

The Riveter

Networking groups for Female Founders And Women Entrepreneurs

Sheworx

Chic CEO

Ellevate, the National Association of Women Business Owners

Savor the Success

She Owns It

The Boss Network

Womancon

SheEo

Educational support for Female Founders And Women Entrepreneurs

Rent the Runway Project Enterprise

Tory Burch Fellows Competition

Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)

Organizations that certify Women-Owned Businesses, Female Founders And Women Entrepreneurs

Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO)

Women’s Business Centers represent a national network of nearly 100 educational centers throughout the United States.

Here is a list of 10 sources of free money for women entrepreneurs

Investment support for Female Founders And Women Entrepreneurs

Female Founders Fund

Springboard

Girls Who Invest

BBG Ventures

Aspect Ventures

Forerunner Ventures

I encourage all men to get involved. It takes a village and if not now, when? With the increasing number of stories coming out on a daily basis about the unfair and inappropriate treatment of women, how can anyone continue to look away, deny or ignore. Simply put, to do so is bad for the world, bad for business and a bad look for all men.

An angel and venture capital investment group for female founders and women entrepreneurs

LDR Ventures is an LA based Venture Capital group that works with early stage fashion and consumer lifestyle brands to incubate, operate and grow with a clear path to profitability. LDR focuses on Fashion and Footwear, Food, Health & Beauty, eCommerce, Omnichannel Retail, Fashion Tech, Retail Tech and Legal Tech. Notable investments and executive leadership roles include: Fame & Partners, Bow & Drape, Thrive Market, Sweet Green, Guess Jeans, Victoria’s Secret, Vince, Steve Madden, American Eagle and Anthropologie . LDR embraces diversity, inclusion, impact and female founders to address the the specific needs of entrepreneurs and works hand-in-hand with them to achieve success. Contact LDR Ventures today at inf[email protected]