Women in Innovation - Cover

The reality of women in the innovation ecosystem

Believe in yourself, find people who support you, educate yourself and make sure you have the drive to keep going”, “Knowing what you know and what you don’t know, and just keep going”, “women have to be more shameless in asking for opportunities” have been the advices that the guests have given during DiA’s Women in the Innovation Ecosystem panel.

Venture Capital funded teams are 82% all male, 6% all females and 12% mixed, according to RatemyInvestor & Diversity VC. In addition to his, only 14% are women investors, according to Deloitte. Due to this gap, the Diversity Investor Academy has seen the importance of holding the first 2021 panel discussion revolving women in Venture Capital, investment, and entrepreneurship.

CEO and founder of baMa, Maria Maso, has led this event that has counted on the participation of the energy industry lead, Nancy Zakhour, venture builder at Z LAB Startup Studio, Sunny  Shuoyang Zhang,  and venture principal at Shell, Andrea Course, have discussed the extra challenges any women suffers when trying to get funding, and when getting the same job opportunities than their male counterparts. 

Andrea Course has highlighted the difficulties women in the VC find when seeking funding because of an unconscious bias. “You tend to invest in people that look like you, and because there aren’t that many people with capabilities of writing checks that are females then there is a tend to invest in the same companies over and over again”, explained Course.

The discrimination against women it is not so much due to a lack of a strong network or pipeline; it is due to this unconscious bias present in pitching events or job offers. As Andrea Course puts it, women when they pitch the questions tend to be: how are you not going to fail? Whereas when a man is presenting it is: how are you going to grow the company? “We need to know these biases, and treat men and women with the same type of standards”, resumed Course.

Nancy Zakhour has added that it is vital to increase awareness of the different treatment that women face when compared to men. “We need to be proactive and help ourselves to become more independent” Zakhour stated. Awareness is key and then you must follow up with confidence. Zakhour finds that women must speak up and express what they don’t like and embrace the challenge. “If you are not getting the traction you want, start by awareness, educate yourself plugging in with groups like baMa or educational groups like DiA to understand the opportunities available to you and make the changes accordingly” Zakhour added.

Along the same lines, Andrea Course finds that most women need to find the confidence to speak up and not to be afraid of being told that they are wrong. This is extremely important because diverse minds bring innovation, i. e., something new that brings value as Sunny Shuoyang Zhang conceptualized it. “Women can add a lot to the current male dominated environment because there are issues that women care more about such as social goods, and social responsibility” Shuoyang Zhang explained. Women can, therefore, add an unique perspective on matters that are typically ignored. 

What can women do to be successful? For Nancy Zakhour it is persistence what has made her get where she is. “You need to keep on working, believing in your hard work and what you are delivering” said Zakhour.  In addition, Shuoyang Zhang explained that women have to embrace the unknown because it will make them grow. It is important to face setbacks and to accept failure because they will teach valuable lessons. Furthermore, curiosity is vital. “You need to be constantly learning new skills, knowing people and caring about people” explained Course. It is about building relationships, giving and receiving.  

Women continue to face distinct challenges, one of the most common is not being taken seriously. “We have all the certifications, and we can prove ourselves and everything we have achieved, but we are still not taken seriously” expressed Zakhour. This depends significantly on external factors such as the environment and culture and it can affect the self-confidence and give in the imposter syndrome.

Zakhour added that women must work harder for the same role than their male competitors. As these challenges are imposed on females, it is crucial that they are fought collectively. “Of course, you have to speak up your worries and do your best as an individual, but this will not always work, it depends on external factors, out of your capacity” concluded Zakhour.

What solutions can women find? Women should help each other, surround themselves with individuals who will treat them equally, and find security and comfort in groups such as baMa that will provide the confidence, the skills and the expertise to challenge these current issues. In addition to this, women need to be “persistent and authentic to succeed and build pure relationships” advised Zakhour.

For Andrea Course, women should not take personally those challenges, because they are a product of unconscious bias created because people are not used to see women in VC or other male dominated sectors.  Instead, she encouraged every woman to go ahead and try new things because in order “to get something they never had, they have to do something they never did.”

About 40 people, majority of them women, attended the event. There were lawyers, marketing professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, and form diverse backgrounds, some were Latinas, Arabic, Indians, Americans, etc but they all had experienced the same hardships for being a woman.

After the panel discussion, the attendees were separated in breakout rooms where they could discuss more intimately some topics regarding women in the investment and innovation ecosystem. Women need to understand that they don’t have to be wealthy in order to invest and become angel investors. They can get the training and stat supporting startups and companies that will produce women-focused products that are currently lacking.  

“The world is going through a fundamental change right now from a hierarchal structure to a decentralized network” concluded Shuoyang Zhang. Women must understand the value that their contributions have to this network. As  Shuoyang Zhang put it, women have to start “turning what they learn into action and this into giving and they will receive.”

baMa’s CEO, Maria Maso finished the event by highlighting that women have to “know their strengths, and be themselves. Stop looking for perfection and be brave enough to be different.”

About baMa: Passionate about innovation, diversity, and inclusion business angel Minority association (baMa) bridges the investment gap in minority-led startups or startups by targeting minority-driven markets through diverse investments and education.

About DiA: We are passionate about innovation, and we believe that diversity brings value to the investment ecosystem. Our mission: Provide education while supporting inclusion. At The Diversity Investors Academy you will learn how to do early-stage investment and the skills to become a future business angel. If you wan to learn more about DiA or have any doubts you can contact, DiA’s manager, Mar Flotats at: mar.flotats@businessangelminorityassociation.com

Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa.

April 2021.

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