Bringing the Yin to the Yang of Business
From our government to corporate America – small companies to big business — most industries promote diversity and inclusion – especially in the case of women. Yet research shows that varying degrees of gender bias still exists.
It’s a hot topic these days. Stories of women’s successes spread across the Internet like wildfire, creating the perception that women are doing well in business.
So which is it? It’s the 21st Century. The doors should be wide open for women. Are they?
Not according to statistics that show “77% of males and 66% of females believe than men deserve employment more than women.”
Not according to a recent report from Pitchbook, stating that “only 13% of venture-backed companies had at least one female co-founder and in the software sector, women-run businesses accounted for just 10% of all venture capital deals” (which was described as a drastic improvement).
Not according to a study co-authored by the Kellogg School of Management and the Booth School of Business. While women are especially encouraged to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering and technology, the Kellogg/Booth study showed that “when the hiring manager had no other information other than a candidate’s gender, they were twice as likely to hire a man than a woman, because they incorrectly believed that men are more talented in science and math…This bias often led to hiring the less-capable job seeker.”
- Not according to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, who takes a look at why a smaller percentage of women than men ever reach the C-suite or the Boardroom.
- Not according to authors Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett whose research shows that “women are still discriminated against in the workplace…but it becomes harder to detect — hidden in subtle biases”, and believe that “leaning in” won’t get you very far.
- And not according to a study conducted at MIT which identified that “investors prefer entrepreneurial ventures pitched by attractive men.”
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I recently read a blog on WIRED, sharing some disturbing stories about the obstacles facing women in business – particularly in the tech world – and largely for women pitching Venture Capitalists.
Undoubtedly not all businesses discriminate against women. And not all females feel they’ve been discriminated against. In the case of VCs, not all founders deserve to be funded – male or female.
At the same time, some of the stories showcased in the WIRED article were hugely troubling:
A woman who pitched an idea to an angel investor who told her I don’t “invest in women” because “they haven’t mastered their linear thinking.”
A woman who shared her story of a businessman who confessed that he does not finance “women he doesn’t find attractive.”
Single mothers facing “a barrage of doubt as to whether [they can] handle a company and kids at the same time.”
And to make things even more concerning, the topic of gender discrimination is an undiscussable which raises the question of whether for every story you hear, “there are far worse stories that many women wouldn’t dare to tell.” Yet when these stories are finally shared, one of the biggest responses from women entrepreneurs is “Oh, I’m so relieved. I thought I was the only one.”
While all of the women who were interviewed for the WIRED story state they also have stories about investors who have been supportive, it’s clear that we need to build systems that are more accepting of women in business and not just on a surface level. The topic needs to be discussed; and if a “firm knows another partner is behaving inappropriately with female entrepreneurs”, it will be met with “the same sort of shock and outrage” as a horrible racist remark. It will be intolerable.
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Entrepreneurship is an essential path to job creation, economic growth and prosperity. One would think that your business proposition, previous experience and aptitude should be the main criteria for hiring and for making investment decisions – especially in this day and age. Yet we are learning that “the gender and physical attractiveness” of a person is a critical criterion that investors and managers use – consciously or unconsciously — to make these very decisions.
In an overly white, male-dominated business world, bringing attention to the gender gap in entrepreneurship – making the “undiscussable” a “discussable” — is the first step. And this conversation needs to take place with both men and women.
If you’d like to read the WIRED article, please visit this link: