Taking a moment to consider equality and diversity

A few female members of the Eight Roads team committed to creating a gender equal world - shown with the #eachforequal sign

Yesterday, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. This year the theme was Each for Equal - to encourage women to act for equality and raise awareness against bias.

Both the day and the theme resonate with us, as the conversation of how we proactively encourage more women into venture capital and even more importantly into entrepreneurship is often on our minds. And while we have been trying to quietly do our bit to make improvements, we know that barriers still exist and there is a lot more work to do. Only “16% of all venture investment dollars invested in 2019 went to start-ups with at least one female founder, down from 18% in 2018.” 

We asked sixteen women from across our global team to share their views, in the hope of opening the conversation up and encouraging reflection on what more we can collectively do as an industry. Here are some of their thoughts:

What obstacles still exist for female founders?

  • Female entrepreneurs don’t have access to as many experienced founders and trusted advisors, meaning they sometimes don’t know where to turn when they face challenges
  • While venture capital levels the playing field in some respects, getting a foot through the door and winning the pitch is a different matter
  • Many women still refer to the "impostor syndrome", where people feel that they don't deserve their achievements or only got there on luck, which is almost always not true
  • Ongoing bias - some are made to feel that they should be choosing family life over building a career or being called out too frequently as being emotional and distracted
  • Navigating childcare is still a huge challenge in many markets, and often is prohibitively expensive
  • Husbands and partners sometimes don’t understand the challenges. It’s important for the conversation to open up more broadly to talk about parental leave, rather than maternity leave as a female-only topic

“I am a big fan of Alexis Ohanian’s (Reddit founder and now Initialized VC) initiatives on this topic and his podcast series 'Business Dads' who celebrate working dads.” Lucile Cornet, a Principal in our Europe Ventures team

What might encourage more women into the path of entrepreneurship?

  • More education for young women (and also young men) - making equality a shared problem to solve
  • Better financial and societal support - particularly for women with young families 
  • A more supportive social environment to provide a safety net for female entrepreneurs
  • More role models - this is where VC can play an active role, in supporting the trailblazing female founders
  • Better access to capital from private market investors and lending institutions
  • More organizations that connect female entrepreneurs with experienced investors, executives and entrepreneurs
  • Changing the general discourse on the founder stereotype - showing women that entrepreneurship is also a path for them

“A path-maker's path is difficult, but it does make it easier for others who follow!” Shweta Bhatia, a Partner in our India team

Why is it important for investors to have diverse teams?

“Diversity in a team reduces the risk of bias, encourages creativity and improves productivity” Rebecca Lin, a Partner in our China Healthcare team

  • Good decisions and great ideas are usually the product of iterative thinking within a small group of people where both diversity and trust are high
  • Diversity makes good business sense but being inclusive is also a moral and social imperative, and a guaranteed way for work to be more fun and rewarding
  • Homogenous investment teams are not reflective of the real world and potentially miss a deeper understanding of consumer behaviours
  • Each investor, as an individual, is easily biased owning to their own background and experiences. Having diverse investment teams is a simple means of mitigating the risks associated with anchoring

A few of the female entrepreneurs that inspire us:

  • Tania Boler, Founder of Elvie - an entrepreneur, scientist and campaigner for women's health and the creator of a new 'femtech' category
  • Laura Urquizu, CEO of Red Points - a very impressive leader who is demonstrating that diverse teams can be an asset in our industry
  • Denise Che, CEO of Wisers - she has the humility and a desire to accept her imperfections and learn from her mistakes, rather than the idealistic attainment of being perfect and 'having it all'!
  • Elizabeth O'Day, CEO and founder of Olaris Therapeutics - among many other things she has gathered an amazing senior team of biotech/healthcare legends to launch AI-based personal medicine solutions for stage 4 breast cancer
  • Lana Hu, the founder of AM Care - she has a clear vision, strong execution capabilities and deep care for patients - the kind of entrepreneur we would like to work with!
  • Jean Liu, President of Didi Chuxing - she has a prodigious work ethic and the persistence to fight against disease, not to mention her business achievement to lead Didi to be one of the strongest mobile transportation companies in the world
  • Tomoko Namba, DeNA - a pioneer for female founders in Japan
  • Maliha Quadir, Founder of Shohoz - for her grit and determination to organize travel and transportation

Thank you to each and every female entrepreneur we work with, and also to the wider teams and families that support them. We believe this is the beginning of the conversation and we will be continuing try and build more diverse teams and inclusive investment pipelines. We’d also love to hear from female entrepreneurs and investors, or aspiring ones on this topic - so please do get in touch: info@eightroads.com.