Female-led start-ups in Africa raised $188m (4%) in 2022, while male-led ventures raised $4.6bn (96%). This means among startups that have raised their first $1 million, female founding teams represent less than 5%. These are low numbers for a continent with high levels of female entrepreneurship, where women make up about 50% of the population. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor annual survey, women are well-represented when it comes to starting a business in Nigeria, one of the big four countries leading the African startup ecosystem. According to the survey, 41% of early-stage businesses are run by females as opposed to 39% of males yet VCs say they can’t find enough female-led businesses.
How could this be? It’s just like empowering half or less than half the potential of the continent.
According to Disrupt Africa, only about 14.6% of African tech startups have a female CEO and only 10% of these startups have a female CEO. When it comes to fundraising, the data states that of the hundreds of startups funded between 2022 and 2023, just 3% of that funding went to companies with female CEOs.
Although rather discouraging, these statistics are not surprising as data released by Techpoint revealed that only about 12% of decision-makers at VC firms are women. More women at the top pave the way for more women to get there but why is there such a wide gap in the first place?
The Logic behind a gender unequal Continent.
Women and men are at the core very different beings with slightly different responsibilities in the world. While the man might not be very concerned about children and childbirth, the very nature of a woman has characteristics of life. That is, although women have been given the gift to reproduce and bring forth life, they often bear the consequences of these natural characteristics through discrimination in the workplace.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Sociology,
“Mothers are 79% less likely to be hired 100%, less likely to be promoted, and are offered a lower salary.”
Unfortunately, this bias is damaging as statistics by Harvard Business Review also reveal that women are perceived by their bosses to be more effective than men at every hierarchical level and in virtually every functional area of the organisation. That includes the traditional male bastions of IT, operations, and legal. This data reinforces the observations that women make highly competent leaders, according to those who work most closely with them and what’s holding them back is not lack of capability but a dearth of opportunity.
This bias is often unconscious. People and companies are aware of the lack of diversity and have poured millions into diversity initiatives yet, the numbers seem to be stagnant. The reasons for this include the unconscious need to maintain the status quo. Change is uncomfortable and many times when the leadership positions have been held by males, a significant change in that is difficult. It is not the case that women are not applying for these positions, striving to be better or building their own businesses to success, it is also not the case that women are not finishing universities/colleges as data reveals that women are now more likely than men to graduate from college. It is the case that when it is apparent that an individual is female/minority, they are rated worse than when their sex or race is obscured.
Limited financing to women
Finance and venture capital is a form of empowerment. VC-backed companies turn out to be one of the most innovative companies and these success drives the economy. From Google to Intel to FedEx, companies supported by venture capital have profoundly changed the U.S. economy. The impressive success of American venture capital promoted entrepreneurship and innovation in the American economy and attracted other governments and policymakers to replicate American success in their markets. Several studies have argued that companies backed by VCs growing fast, have better financial and operating results, are more innovative, and are more likely to go public compared with their non-VC-backed peers. The logic spans to say that when these companies built by women are not financed also known as being empowered, this leads to a lower rate of success and the gap continues to widen.
What can we do
We can be intentional about creating policies for more women to thrive in the workplace. As mentioned earlier, the foundation is understanding that women and men are fundamentally different and there needs to be an intentional effort to make sure that women can care for children, birth, and take on home responsibilities happily without paying the price.
Data from Kaufmann Fellows, a venture capital fellowship, also indicates that female partners invest in more female founders than their male counterparts. The interpretation is simple. We intentionally invest in more women which creates a spiral effect for economic growth on the continent. Greater than the need for gender equality is the recognition of the potential of women in the economy. It is tested and proven that they are equally equipped to perform tasks that improve the performance of organisations over time.
In conclusion, gender disparity is a significant problem that adversely affects women worldwide. Certain women encounter discrimination rooted in their gender, while others grapple with additional disparities tied to factors such as sexual orientation, caste, and socioeconomic class. It is imperative for workplaces to recognize and address these intricate layers of inequality by implementing comprehensive changes that foster support for women throughout the entire organization.
Did you enjoy this newsletter? Thank you for reading. Please share with everyone you believe will be interested.
At Nubia Capital, we are committed to diversity and inclusion in our investment approach.
Our Gender Lens Strategy is an integral part of our investment philosophy.
Our Gender Lens Strategy is not just an initiative; it’s a commitment to a
more inclusive and successful future. We believe in investing not only in companies but in the potential of all entrepreneurs, regardless of gender.
WHY GENDER LENS STRATEGY?
Gender diversity fosters innovation and drives business success.
It aligns with our core values of equality and social impact.
This is Nubia Capital and we are here to serve Africa.