Debbie Wosskow, the co-founder of AllBright, an investment fund for female entrepreneurs, is calling for a “frank” conversation about sexism in the UK investment scene.
“We need to understand the landscape and the extent to which it exists,” says Wosskow, who is also the chief executive of Love Home Swap.
Wosskow’s call comes after several high profile investors in the US resigned over the last few weeks following sexual harassment allegations.
“It feels like it’s time to have the same frank conversation about sexism here in the UK,” she says.
A recent AllBright survey of 500 female founders in Britain found that one in five had felt that they had not been heard when talking to male investors.
“There are some horror stories out there that came out in our Foundher festival about male investors asking a woman’s male co-founder about whether the female founder will get pregnant and what they will both do if it happens,” says Wosskow.
The serial entrepreneur has faced similar treatment. When she was raising funds for Love Home Swap, a male investor told her: “I’m not sure if there’s a market need for your service but I’ll go home and check with my wife and get back to you.”
“Men just don’t have to deal with that sort of questioning or feedback,” says Wosskow.
But discrimination is not always so obvious. Researchers in the US found that investors quizzing entrepreneurs at this year’s Techcrunch Disrupt tended to ask male founders questions about the ways in which their startups could make money, and female founders questions about the potential for losses.
“The data showed that entrepreneurs that fielded questions about potential for losses went on to raise an average of $2.3m for their startup in 2017, and that was seven times less than the $16.8m raised on average by entrepreneurs asked about potential gains,” says Wosskow. “In other words, there’s a presumption that men make more money than women and that sits behind the investment community.”
So what’s the solution?
“We need more female investors, both in terms of venture capital but women need to invest more as angels,” says Wosskow. “We need to help female founders to found their businesses. That’s the way you create a proper ecosystem that’s more balanced.”