REPOST from Medium, an article written by Maria Gonzalez-Blanch, Ad Astra Ventures Fund Manager & alumna of our Ad Astra Ventures INvestor Bootcamp, “Close the Gap”
I recently attended an investor workshop led by Ad Astra Ventures called “Close the Gap”. The objective was to educate investors about the implicit biases that prevent us from investing in more women. They also gave us a toolkit to use during our meetings with female founders to take action and close the gap.
As a female investor, I thought I was rather objective and that I did not have many prejudices when it came to investing in male versus female founders. I was wrong! I discovered that I subconsciously harbor a number of biases toward investing in women. Some of them won’t go away (despite my best efforts), but I learned very practical tips to implement in my future meetings with female founders. Before I share the key takeaways, I’d like to mention some of the biases that resonated with me:
- Leadership bias: People think first of a man when they think of a leader.
- Emotion bias: Forceful and emotional women are “hysterical,” get overwhelmed and are unlikable.
- Focus bias: Men prioritize their careers. Women are more empathetic and prioritize their family and friends.
- Innovation bias: Men are more creative than women. Men are more likely to think “outside the box” and have big visions.
- Potential bias: Men can learn anything new. Women need experience before trying something new.
- Competence bias: Women underestimate their own abilities, but overestimate others’.
As we reviewed these biases (and others), I could recall times in the past when I held these biases against other women, as well as when others held them against me. Once we understood them better, we had the opportunity to listen to several female founders pitch and to apply some of the tools we learned. Here are some key takeaways and tools that you can also use during your next meetings:
- Start the meeting with questions that promote growth instead of prevent risk. E.g. It looks like this is a huge market, how are you thinking of growing? Versus… This is a very competitive space, how are you going to fight the competition and reach profitability? Also, don’t take the financial projections at face value, be curious. Women tend to be more pessimistic than men when it comes to financial projections.
- Be open minded. If you haven’t experienced the problem being addressed firsthand, ask someone in your life who has. A lot of the problems women work on are female-centric, so be curious about them and learn something new!
- Be contrarian. If you are on the fence, choose to take a second meeting
- Be helpful. Provide thoughtful, insightful feedback on how to strengthen the business if you decide to pass on the investment.
- Be proactive. Actively seek female founders. Strive to meet with, mentor and invest in women.
Closing the gap does not require us to upend our investment processes: for example, I adhere closely to a screening checklist in all my first conversations with founders. But having gone through this workshop, I realized that I can begin to level the playing field for female founders just by being aware of my biases and asking the right questions, the right way.
I hope these thoughts resonate with you too! Let’s close the gap together!