Recognizing that all-female teams only received $1.9 billion of the $85 billion total invested by Venture Capital firms last year, I spend countless days and nights studying and creating solutions to level the playing field for women and underrepresented founders. According to Tech Crunch, only 2% of funding went to all female teams last year. When we break that statistic down to African-American female founders, only .4% of VC funding was received.
When we look at the trends, it is a very concerning story. I consistently have individuals tell me that the narrative is changing and that VC funding doubled for African-American female founders last year…I share a friendly reminder that the data changed from .2% in 2017 to .4% in 2018.
THE LACK OF OPPORTUNITY IN THE C-SUITE
When we examine Fortune 500 Companies, according to the latest data from Catalyst, only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. When it comes to African-American women, there are currently not any African-American female CEOs of S&P 500 Companies. It was definitely a very inspiring moment to witness Ursula Burns be named the first African-American female Fortune 500 CEO in 2009. I continue to celebrate Ursula Burns for this phenomenal accomplishment. Unfortunately, over the past ten years, the only additional African-American female CEO of a Fortune 500 Company was Mary Winston, who served as the interim CEO of Bed Bath and Beyond. The fact that the data has remained the same for African-American women over the past twenty years is something that should be very concerning for Fortune 500 organizations. The reason for this is that the incoming consumer base, Gen Z, care less about your product and more about what your organization is doing from a social impact perspective.
THE VC LANDSCAPE
One of the huge success stories in the African-American community is the founder of Vista Equity, Robert F. Smith, who has inspired so many underrepresented founders to educate themselves about how the world of VC really works.
It sounds really exciting until most founders see the same trends that are playing out in Corporate America are also playing out in the VC landscape. Underrepresented founders are pitching for VC funding, but are not closing the deals.
According to the annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, women start an average of 1,817 new businesses per day in the United States and Women of Color account for 89%, or 1,625 of these new businesses. The fast growing demographic is new African-American owned businesses. Despite this trend, the average revenue for African-American women declined 3% from $67,800 in 2014 to $65,800 in 2019.
Each month, our organization speaks to countless women and underrepresented founders and the narrative remains the same. They are optimistic in their product and/or service that their business offers, but are not confident in the long-term viability without having access to capital and facing unconscious biases when pitching for funding to investors. According to Fortune, for every time a woman pitches, men have pitched nine times.” It’s a double obstacle for African-American women who are the most ambitious and invest in obtaining countless degrees to succeed in Corporate America only to realize that the doors to the C-Suite remain primarily closed.
If I were not an eternal optimist, I could literally just look at the data and say that this problem is too big to attack. To recap, only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and less than 2% of VC funding is going to female founders. When it comes to African-American women, there are currently not any African-American female CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies and only .4% of funding is going to this demographic.
LET’S MOVE THE NARRATIVE BEYOND A CONVERSATION TO A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION
Our team is looking to partner with both Fortune 500 Companies and VC firms to change the data one founder at a time. Although on the surface the data may look dismal, our team is committed to closing the gap via impactful programming, effective curriculum, and a winning ecosystem.
We’re helping women and founders from underrepresented communities effectively pitch their business to win and maintain corporate contracts, access capital, and diversify the landscape by focusing on the strategic pillars of education, activation, and sustainability.
Our ask of each of you reading this article that are either in a position of influence in a Fortune 500 organization, a VC investor, and/or an angel investor is to partner with our team to move beyond a conversation and start holding ourselves accountable. We have several opportunities to partner!
1) Partner with our team on our Pitch University initiative
a. Learn additional details at pitchuniversity.com
2) Partner with our team on our Global Supplier Diversity Conference initiative
a. Learn additional details at globalsupplierdiversityconference.com
3) Reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to bring our team into your organization to learn how you can become a long-term strategic partner
4) Mentor an underrepresented founder or rising underrepresented corporate leader
5) Share this article