In recent years, we have heard a lot about the importance of implementing diversity & inclusion in the workplace. It can bring many benefits such as a broader range of perspectives, better problem solving and improvement of overall business performance. Even though diversity has many benefits, we can still face those in a business field who overlook it when it comes to making a business deal within a diverse team.
Our first speaker was Priyanka Harish. She is a passionate young entrepreneur focused on solving biomedical problems with an intention to improve Healthcare Industry. She is a founder of Rocknroo start-up, a smart chest shaped pillow that mimics the warmth and breathing of a parent, providing babies with comfort and making parenthood easier and less stressed. She is also an ambassador of Female Entrepreneurship at DutchSE with an aim to inspire and support young female entrepreneurs and narrow the gender gap in the start-up ecosystem. While being an active member of a business field, Priyanka comes across various challenges that she was willing to share with us.
During the event, we learned from Priyanka that the start-up experience is full of unexpected situations but also why it is essential to have more and more females in the business field. Priyanka compared a start-up journey to a roller coaster, full of ups and downs with a lot of challenges, often including risk-taking decisions. Additionally, as part of an adventure where every day is different, Priyanka recommended always bear in mind a passion for why we do and simply adhere to our vision with the belief that our efforts can benefit society.
As a female entrepreneur, she noticed a small number of women in a business. Mostly, women move in different business sectors than men do, and therefore they see the need to create something new in the sector less known by men. Women may be able to open businesses that cater different clientele than males do. This can help to support the overall development of a global economy.
Priyanka also emphasized the fact that there is a lack of role models for female entrepreneurs that could be a barrier to setting up a business. A lot of women feel less confident starting a business, that is why hearing other inspirational women would motivate them to start with the first step.
Our second speaker was Simone Brummelhuis who was nominated as the most influential businesswoman of The Netherlands in 2019 (Opzij). She is the founding partner and fund director of Borski Fund, a venture capital fund focusing on growth capital for female founders with a belief in diversity, gender equality, and fair opportunities. Next to this, she is a supervisory board member of the Royal Schiphol Group, Rabobank Amsterdam, and Media Huis Nederland. Simone was a co-founder of IENS which was the largest online restaurant platform sold to Tripadvisor in 2014.
Did you know that only 16% of VC firms invest in mixed or female founded startups ? And that 87% of VC firms in the Netherlands have zero women investors ?
Simone introduced us to the topic of diversity in a business field with these statistics. Often overlooked, but even more important numbers that surprised many of us. Because of these figures, pointing to the lack of diversity in business, the Fundright movement was born. It is a VC-initiated movement aimed at ensuring a more diverse ecosystem, at both the VC level and portfolio company level. Standing for a more inclusive future with equal access to funding and opportunity for all founders is the commitment of Fundright.
During her career, Simone noticed a very low number of female founders in a digital environment. Therefore, the idea of the Borski Fund was created to support mostly teams composed of both genders or give a chance to female entrepreneurs. Simone emphasized the fact that diversity in a team can help to change the way a team is looking at their company and is more capable to see points of improvement. Throughout the event, Simone discussed the reasons for the existence of the funding gap and its consequences. She considers bias as being one of the main reasons for the funding gap, along with a lack of broad network potential female entrepreneurs may have. Related to that, she described how important is a type of business that wants to get funded. She noticed that a lot of fund companies invest in SaaS enterprises and they are not interested much in health companies or consumer-oriented ones. She also notes a differentiation in questioning when it comes to the female candidates for funding. Women usually get prevention questions related to their business while men candidates are asked about the promotion phase of their business. This funding gap leads to the innovation gap where ideas that could help society have never got funded.
Having female entrepreneurs in a business world can help to build innovations in fields with which male entrepreneurs are not familiar enough like femtech or the fashion industry with a big sustainability view.