How women can break out of the gender box when raising funds

Estelle Lloyd, co-founder of a crowdfunded business, outlines how women in business need to break out of being pigeonholed.

A recent study from UC Berkeley Haas’ School of Business suggested that women are better at crowdfunding than men. According to the research, women are more likely to express ‘positive emotion, vividness and inclusiveness’ in their pitches, and focus less on business language, helping potential investors feel an affinity with the product. Meanwhile, men continue to triumph when it comes to securing traditional financing.

As the founder of a business that’s done both (in fact, Azoomee is on Crowdcube right now!) I’ve also seen this play out first hand – my husband and fellow co-founder tends to be more direct with investors, while I generally look to get them excited about our creative vision and the company’s mission.

It frustrates me that men and women get pigeonholed into these boxes. The unfortunate reality is that, even today, some sectors are still associated with men and others with women – for example, think fintech versus children’s apps, baby products, or cupcakes.

It’s also often assumed that female entrepreneurs start companies without thinking about profitability and the economics of a business, instead choosing to focus on a social agenda or personal experience. On the flip side, men are believed to lack emotional sensitivity.

That’s not to say things aren’t improving – compared to ten years ago, when I set up my first business, there’s been a notable change in attitude towards women in business with less resistance from investors when it comes to entering negotiations and discussing valuations. Equally, one of London’s favourite, and most successful, cupcake chains – the Hummingbird Bakery – was founded by a man. Not to mention that we have a strong male contingent at Azoomee flying the flag for keeping children safe online.

But progress is slow – so how can we help it edge forwards?

Women need to continue to prove themselves – we can’t shy away from the numbers or be disheartened by rebuffs. Perceptions won’t change overnight, so patience and persistence are key.

When you take a look around, there are already a huge number of successful women who have gone against the grain and launched successful business outside of their ‘expected’ realms. Take Baroness Lane Fox co-founder of Lastminute.com, which was sold in 2005 for £577 million. Or Tamara Littleton, CEO of @Emoderation, a social media management agency. Or Bethany Koby, founder of Technology Will Save Us, who is making strides to supply children with DIY technology kits. It’s these stories that will inspire a new generation of women entrepreneurs to challenge the status quo and pursue the fields they want to, but they’re not yet the norm – we need more!

There’s no quick-fix solution – a noticeable shift in business mentality will take time to emerge – but these baby steps are leading to giant leaps that are moving us in the right direction: towards entrepreneurs and businesspeople being defined by their credentials instead of their gender.

Estelle Lloyd is the co-founder of children’s online education and entertainment platform, Azoomee.