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Narrowing the Gender Gap: Why Women Need to Pitch VCs

New reports show that women will earn more in the next decade and many more women are successfully launching businesses.
March 22, 2012

The earning power of women will increase dramatically in the next decade, according to a dynamic group of women at the recent Women in the World Summit. The audience in New York City was filled with luminaries, including Diane von Furstenburg and Chelsea Clinton.

The Global Girl Power report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch says that the gender gaps are closing around the world. Candace Browning, head of global research for the company, cited the recent report. She says women are also launching businesses at an exponential rate.

These new ventures span most all sectors, but women are notably absent from one of the fastest-growing industries: the tech sector. Susan Lyne, chairwoman of flash-sales site Gilt Groupe, spoke about the void. It's ultimately a huge opportunity for women in the industry.

“The Internet arena doesn’t have enough women,” she told the audience. “Particularly in the startup world. That’s for a couple of reasons, but the biggest, most challenging one is access to capital. Venture capital firms are hugely underrepresented with women investors. If you’re at a company that has only men listening to pitches, they tend to like the pitches that come from men.”

Lyne cited research on the top 20 VC firms and the number of women who had control or input in investment decisions, and of the 422 people at these companies, only 45 were female. That is 11 percent.

“It’s a real problem for young women entrepreneurs to be able to finance a startup company,” she said. “And it’s important. It’s an area where there’s going to be a lot of wealth creation over the next couple of decade where you can have a real impact.

"This is a really impactful industry, everywhere. And if women don’t have the ability to play in that realm, it’s going to be really challenging.”

Amanda Steinberg, founder and CEO of DailyWorth, said that she was intentional about finding female investors for her company, for which she raised $3 million in venture capital. She also pointed out that 40 percent of women now out-earn their husbands, which has huge economic implications.

When moderator Gayle Tzemach Lemmon asked the panel if women should start launching tech companies that are not focused on “fashion, shopping and babies,” Lyne responded.

“There are millions and millions of women out there who love to shop and have babies. It’s just not logical,” she said. “I think you go for what you know. I’m very happy to be on shopping side of the business.”

She also explained that “if you look at consumer-facing e-commerce companies, women are the big growth driver. They are adopting the Internet at an incredibly fast pace. That’s another reason why not having women on these investment teams is just dumb. Because that’s where the consumer is.”

Photo credit: Flickr/Fortune Live Media