Why Women in Entrepreneurship Isn’t Just a Catchphrase


Why Women in Entrepreneurship Isn’t Just a Catchphrase

Seedstars Global

MAY 14, 2021

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in the world of business. That is why we are committed to empowering women both internally as a company, and in the work we do providing access to entrepreneurial education, funding and network. According to The Wall Street Journal, only 167 of 3,000 top US companies are led by women. Why is that when women make up around 47 per cent of the total workforce and millennial women make out half of the university-educated workers? Even when women are more educated or experienced, the gender pay gap is significant.

When talking about female founders, the data varies significantly according to the region of the world. As shown in the Seedstars report on The Benefits of Developing Women Entrepreneurship, only one in three businesses globally are owned by women, however the percentage goes towards less than 20 per cent in regions such as MENA and South Asia. Funding is also an issue for female founders, as there is an unmet gap of $260 to $320 billion in funding for women-owned companies. Similar worrying indicators show that men are three times more likely to receive angel investor fundings than women. You can read more on the importance of diverse dealflow in our recently published article here.

Seedstars activities working towards gender equality

Seedstars strongly believes that gender equality shouldn’t just be a buzzword pulled out during Women’s History Month. Since our very beginning we have strived to be a gender equal workplace and are proud to say that 50 per cent of our team are women. Giving equal opportunity applies to everything, from our hiring process to promotions within the company. Gender equality shouldn’t just be a women’s issue. For starters, equality is a basic human right but it is also the way towards long term sustainable development. An analysis by the IFC has found that private equity and venture capital funds with gender-balanced senior investment teams generated 10 to 20 percent higher returns.

We want to promote such thinking across the board, which includes actively working on gender equality in all of our programs and competitions. The Women Entrepreneur Prize has been given out as part of the World Competition since 2016 to that year’s best female-founded startup and we have been focusing on sourcing women-led businesses for a variety of our programs.

As an investor we want to advocate Gender Lens Investing. The aim of the Seedstars International Fund 1, our first global seed stage fund, is to have over 30 per cent of female-led companies in our investment portfolio. At the end of 2020 we were at 25.4 per cent and working towards meeting our goal. Actively addressing the imbalance and targeting female-led startups already in the sourcing stages is crucial as they often get overlooked in the beginning stages. For more information on how to diversify the company investment portfolio, but also internal teams check out this handy guide by the IFC.


Founder supported by the Seedstars International Fund 1 by gender

The Gender Equity Track is a project piloted in 2018 to drive gender-inclusive training opportunities and catalyse more investment for female founders in Sub-Saharan Africa. The initial analysis three years ago showed that from the 5,000 applications the Seedstars World Competition received in 2017, only 14 per cent were female-led businesses, and of them only three per cent made it to top 10 in each country. The analysis made us think about how we can better understand the challenges female entrepreneurs face and thus, provide better support in training and opening to investment opportunities.

The goal of this project is to source 500 female-founded startups from Sub-Saharan Africa to the Seedstars World Competition every year. By participating, startups get personalized training and mentorship by industry experts within our community network, as well as a chance to win up to $500,000 in investment. We recognize that gender equality means compensation for the historical and social disadvantages that are preventing women from having a level playing field, so we have refocused on creating gender equity as a step in achieving long term equality.

In partnership with WeEmpowerAsia, a UN Women programme funded by the European Union, we are currently preparing for the launch of the ‘UN Women Care Accelerator’, a six month long tailor-made training programme for female entrepreneurs and businesses led by or supporting women in the care industry from Asia-Pacific. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already decreasing rate of female labour force participation in the region. By supporting care entrepreneurs to grow their business, the goal of the Care Accelerator is to provide quality, affordable care services that allow some women to pursue paid employment outside the home, whilst creating decent care jobs and income for other women. The goal of the programme is to create jobs and income for women, as this region in particular had an decrease in women labour force participation even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

We are pleased to recognize female business owners for the diligence that they put into their success despite the challenges of COVID-19, and supporting them will be vital for a faster, more inclusive economic recovery.” said Katja Freiwald, Regional Programme Manager for WeEmpowerAsia, UN Women.

Applications for the programme are open until May 27th.

Women Empowerment during the Seedstars World Competition 2020/21

Each year we see an increase in the number of women-led startups, and this year was no different. Here are just some of the top female-founded startups from this year’s edition of the Seedstars World Competition working in various sectors and regions of the world:

  • Rohobot Home Based Health Care Service P.L.C: Is a startup that provides quality home-based healthcare services for chronic illness and aged people with skilled health professionals at affordable prices.
  • Ladda: Is a startup that democratizes access to investment for retail investors backed up by financial literacy.
  • Alter: Is a science-based service helping people to find a right and professional psychotherapist with proper method and specialization.
  • Noomee: Is a startup that highlights solutions to the main problems that face children with ASD and also guides their parents and therapists.
  • Amal: Is a startup that disrupts the construction industry by bridging workers with contractors, bringing transparency, trust, and culture change.
  • Droobi: Is the world’s first suite of bilingual (Arabic & English) digital therapeutic programs, using a host of best-in-class technologies.
  • PharmBonus: Is an App that connects all types of medical professionals in an educational, informational and communicative platform internationally.
  • Fix-it: Is an application in Iraq that facilitates the request for maintenance services without the need to wait and waste time and effort.

The winner of this year’s Women Entrepreneur Prize is the Russian based startup Alter and their CEO and founder Olga Kitaina. Alter is a science-based service helping people to find the right professional psychotherapist with proper methods and specialization. Olga, who is a practicing psychologist herself, had trouble finding the right help and decided to launch Alter as an answer to the still taboo topic of mental health in her country. Alter’s matching algorithm considers a client’s particular needs, while also heavily screening potential therapists as Russia’s system is quite unregulated. See Olga pitching during the CEE Regional Finals here.

Also during the Regional Finals, we have had the opportunity to host three different panel discussions on women empowerment in Africa, Asia and Latin America with speakers from organizations such as UN Women, World Bank Group, Palladium Group, CAF and more. They discussed the challenges women face in everyday work environments, touched upon unpaid work, which women do two and a half times more than men, and shared what they and their companies are actively doing to foster women empowerment.

The discussion on women empowerment is not over, as there is still a long way to go in achieving full gender equality. Join us during the Grand Finale of the Seedstars World Competition 2020/21 on May 20th, 2PM CET, and check out the previous panel discussion on our YouTube channel or website.

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