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First of all, some figures: according to CrunchBase's annual study, the number of US based startups with at least one female founder has plateaued at 17%. While the number as increased by 8% over the time period of 2009 – 2012, it raises this question: Why has the number not increased beyond 17%? More alarming than that is the stat on the fundraising difference between men and women. Of the $104 billion raised, only $10 billion (9.6%) went to companies with at least one female founder; $94 billion (91%) was invested in male only founder companies. Still as recently as 2016, 43% of the 150 highest-earning public companies in Silicon Valley had no female executive officers at all.
This situation is even worse in tech. I arrived in 2014 in Silicon Valley. MyScienceWork was selected to spend 3 months as an accelerated start-up in Sunnyvale at Plug & Play Tech Center. This was the first time that MyScienceWork team arrived in California. Silicon Valley is an exceptional place for entrepreneurship with a "Change your World" mentality with inspiration from successful businesses, geek culture, and prestigious institutions such as Stanford University, Berkeley, UCSF, etc., which are leading in various biotechnologies, mental mentoring, complementary between mentors, investors, coaches, incubators, energy, dynamism, fun, etc.
BUT ... In Silicon Valley women are under-represented! At most of the start-up events that I was invited to present to the Society, I was the only woman--usually the only female guest out of 15 men. In addition, the diversity is very low: the prototype of the CEO in tech is a white man between 40 and 50 years. There is very poor diversity in terms of color, age, and religion. This observation may surprise you, innovation in Silicon Valley YES but not at the societal level.
How are women in tech and women in science candidates for the future of innovation and business value creation?
For me, the reasons that brought me to entrepreneurship were:
- My passion of science and my PhD which trained me well
- The need for a global vision of innovation and business
- My desire to have an impact on society
- The need to accelerate technical or scientific innovation with greater resources
- My want to be surrounded by positive people
Investment funds dedicated to women are beginning to multiply. Economic statistics show that start-ups founded by women perform better on average. If there is more confidence in the investments made to fund women entrepreneurs, the benefits will follow. Women tend to be less prominent and more likely to reconcile their family life with their business women's lives, but the result indicates that the company is more stable and more sustainable.
Women scientists have a bright future ahead of them. They have excellent training, an open mind on discoveries and the world, an international experience, and the habit of managing complex projects from A to Z. And here is a point of interest: women are tenacious; whem faced with difficulties we have a lower tendency to give up--we are stubborn!
A concrete example of a new investment fund that wants to invest and give confidence to women: Off The Grid Venture. I am proud to be one of their ambassadors.
Finally, and last point: create vocations! Female scientists need to engage in entrepreneurship. They need to be role models, visible, and prestigious. Let's give more opportunities and deeds to women and put more value in their actions in order to encourage vocations.
In May 2017, for the first time (in awareness of this need), a woman entrepreneur role model award was created to promote the awakening of consciences while showing that we are under-represented and put forward some women to create public examples. I was very proud to receive the Gold Award as a Women Role Model in the French American Business Award following other awards, including the May 2016 ranking by The Berlin-based magazine, The Hundert, in the top 100 most successful female entrepreneurs in Europe.
So, it's my turn to try to convince and inspire. I'm just starting this exciting fight! So please join me in spreading this good news of female entrepreneurship.