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International Women's Day: 3 ways to Invest in women

Updated: Mar 8

In the lead-up to International Women's Day, TechCircle is taking stock of its contributions to women's advancement. This year's theme, "Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress," perfectly aligns with our track record as the convener of Pitch2Win and an early-stage investment firm that provides advisory to startups. 

Over the years, we have funded, mentored and provided networks to exceptional women entrepreneurs and promising female-led companies. We have done this because we understand that companies with greater gender diversity in leadership have stronger financial performance, women entrepreneurs re-invest a higher percentage of profits back into their businesses and communities leading to better education, healthcare, and infrastructure.

Our commitment to supporting women-led businesses is driving positive change. A recent report by TechCabal highlighted a significant increase in funding for African women-led health tech companies in 2023. This trend aligns perfectly with our own experience, In 2023, Phamarun - a woman-led health tech startup that delivers medication on-demand to the doorsteps of customers received equity-free investment of $10,000 as the the winner of our Pitch2Win 2023 competition.

Based on this success, we believe the following are effective ways to further invest in women and accelerate progress in the Nigerian tech ecosystem:

  1. Investment in companies with female founders or co-founders

The percentage of portfolio companies with female founders or co-founders in the global tech industry remains low. In a report by The Exchange, Female-led startups raised $188m (4%) in 2022 while male counterparts raised $4.6bn (96%). While unconscious bias can unintentionally limit investment opportunities, it's not the whole story. Gaps in access to resources, training, and mentorship can also hinder female participation in the startup ecosystem. This creates a situation where exceptional talent is overlooked and underdeveloped.

The data is clear - companies with greater gender diversity in leadership tend to outperform financially. This is likely due to the benefits of having a mix of perspectives and experiences at the decision-making table. While past performance isn't a guarantee of future success, backing exceptional companies led or co-founded by women makes good business sense.

Taking action: VC’s, angel investors, and all funding stakeholders can seek to increase the percentage of female founders in their investment portfolio by setting specific targets and actively seeking out high-potential women-led companies. They can address unconscious bias in the investment process by evaluating pitches without founder information to focus solely on the business idea. Also backing and resource supporting incubator/accelerator programs designed for women-led businesses to access the resources, training, and mentorship required to build exceptional business, is another way to take action.

This will not only unlock potential for these businesses but also contribute to a more vibrant and successful tech ecosystem.

  1. Mentorship and support provided to women founders: 

Women are often underrepresented in mentorship and networking opportunities within corporate and startup structures. While numerous organisations offer mentorship programs, a deeper analysis to assess their effectiveness in supporting women founders is crucial.

Here are some key questions to ask in this assessment:

  • How are mentorship matches made? Does the process account for the specific needs, experience level, and industry focus of both mentors and founders?

  • Do mentors receive training on unconscious bias and effective communication styles to ensure a supportive and inclusive environment for women founders?

  • Do mentors have experience relevant to women founders' challenges (e.g., fundraising, navigating male-dominated industries)?

  • Do founders feel comfortable sharing specific challenges faced by women entrepreneurs (e.g., work-life balance, positive discrimination, access to funding)?

  • Does the mentorship program offer opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and networking among women founders? 

  • How are the needs and challenges faced by women founders at different stages (idea, growth, scaling) addressed within the program? 

By asking these deeper questions, stakeholders can take a more comprehensive approach in designing mentorship program's, in assessing their effectiveness, and in fostering a supportive environment for women founders at different stages.

  1. Advocacy for women in tech: 

Advocacy is multifaceted, and there is a lot to do. Here are some key aspects that relate to the startup ecosystem:

  • Financial Investment: allocating a specific portion of investment capital and Backing women-led ventures by partnering with VC firms like FirstCheck Africa .

  • Sponsorship and Mentorship: Sponsoring and/or volunteering for initiatives like Women TechStars to mentor and encourage young girls to get interested in tech.

  • Positive Reinforcement: Publicly highlighting the achievements of women in tech using platforms like Document Women. - This can inspire young women and create positive role models.

  • Addressing Challenges: Speak up on the specific challenges and barriers faced by women in tech leadership and management like Adia Sowho does. This raises awareness and paves the way for change.

  • "Reverse Mentorship": Create programs where experienced women founders can mentor male counterparts to address unconscious bias and increase understanding of female entrepreneurs' challenges.

  • Diversity in Investment: Promote and encourage participation of women angel investors to diversify the funding landscape.

  • Platform and Recognition: Curate, implement and promote events like Pitch2Win, which provides a valuable platform for women-led businesses to secure funding and gain recognition.

By implementing a combination of these strategies, advocating for women in tech can go beyond hosting conferences, and delve into broader initiatives and policy changes that lead to lasting systemic improvements.

Invest in Women, Invest in Progress: Join TechCircle's Pitch2Win 2024 Competition!

TechCircle is committed to building on its successful track record of finding, supporting and funding exceptional women-led businesses. We are proud of our impact, and we know we can go further by expanding our mentorship programs and partnering with organizations focused on women in business.

We invite women entrepreneurs to apply early to join Pitch2Win 2024 competition by joining the waitlist. We also invite funders to get involved and join us in making a difference. Together, let's invest in women and accelerate progress for all.

Happy International Women's Day to the amazing women who are shaping the world around us! Your innovation, creativity, and expertise are building the future. ♡♡

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