I was listening to an interview the other day on NPR with Luisa Kroll from Forbes about the recent list of billionaires worldwide. One of her comments caught my ear:
[There are] 89 women from the whole list. It’s less than 10 percent, but even more telling, I think, is the fact that there are only 14 self-made female billionaires in the entire world, 14 out of 1,011. I call it the one percent club.”
The ultimate club of women entrepreneurs is really small.
A few weeks ago, I read a white paper released by Illuminate Ventures that documents that women entrepreneurs are a great untapped resource.
From this paper:
- Despite often being capital-constrained, women-owned businesses are more likely to survive the transition from raw start-up to established company than the average.
- Women-owned or led firms are the fastest growing sector of new venture creation in the U.S., growing at five times the rate of all new firms between 1997 and 2006 – now representing nearly 50% of all privately held businesses.
- In the past 10 years more than 125 companies with over 200 women co-founders or officers have achieved IPOs or >$50M M&A exits in the U.S. high-tech sector alone.
I was reminded of a story I heard from a colleague, a well respected woman engineering executive from a Fortune 500 company. She took some time off, and when she began to look for work, her interest was in becoming a CEO of a start up. She had all of the experience that Venture looks for in CEOs – she had run a large organization, she had broad experience, not only in software engineering, but as a general manger, in sales and in marketing. But VCs would not even meet with her. Her experience was that they wouldn’t talk to her because she did not have experience as a CEO. A friend of hers, a very successful woman CEO, concurred with this experience. The only reason she got her first CEO job was because she had a long time relationship with the funder of her first company, and because he believed in her. She had many colleagues who also found the first CEO job hard to land, unlike the many men who with very similar experience, are asked to be first time CEOs.
Right now, through the work of Illuminate Ventures and through organizations such as Astia, I am optimistic that this state of affairs will change, but breaking into this elite world is hard, and egos abound. I look forward to the day when the number of self made women billionaires is a non-issue. Let’s talk then.