Just read this post at BNET (CBS's Interactive Business Network) and I'm wondering how other women might feel about it, so I thought I'd share.
I've started three businesses in the past 10 years. The first one, Windsor Media Enterprises, Inc. received an SBA loan - one that turned out to be highway robbery, IMHO. While the immediate cash was helpful, the terms were not. I ended up strapped to the loan later on and I'm going to celebrate when it's paid off next January.
That business is still in operation. I don't manage it as much - I still publish books (it's a print on demand publishing company and the business books we're fortunate to have in our bookstore are outstanding - I am proud of each and every one of them), but the book business is taking a back seat to my blog business, today.
While working in and managing WME, as we call it, Tom and I also did blog and social media consulting. We actually paid most of our bills doing that. As the initial terms of my SBA loan changed from "interest only" to actually paying the loan - the monthly payment skyrocketed from under $1000/mo to almost $3000 per month. And, the bank did not prepare me, although I called them numerous times to ASK what the new payment would be. Suffice it to say, I would never do that again. Not for any amount of money.
Moving on... Tom and I are now working with another smart, talented and dynamic woman with a solid background in business, building a social community online for pet bloggers. Regular readers know that. Pets are a BIG part of my life, and social media has become a big part of my life, and our pet bloggers are primarily women...so I am winning on many levels. Lucky me! [this is Tom with my daughter's puppy - even he loves pets, which is why we make a good team!]
Here's the rub - we have explored the options of investors or bank loans for BlogPaws. To no positive end. Now I know why...
Kimberly Weisul, writing on BNET, says, "...new research from the University of Utah lends weight to the argument that discrimination is at work. After studying the reactions of 222 MBA students to different founding teams, researchers Robert Wuebker and Lyda Bigelow found that even though the personal qualifications and the firm financials were identical no matter the gender of the CEO, women-led firms were seen as having a poorer strategic position, and female founders were perceived as less capable."
Oh but it gets better, folks. Here are some of the more blatantly discriminatory points:
- The recommended investment in the startup, as a percentage of its equity, was almost three times higher for firms with male CEOs.
- Top management teams led by female CEOs were seen as less likely to stay together during the startup's early year, as less cohesive, and as having more internal conflict.
- Both men and women evaluated people of their own sex more favorably, but this effect was stronger for men.
Truth is - I've felt this to be true for some time. And yet, as Weisul notes at the start of her post, most women don't seek funding. It's a fundamental issue with women - as if asking for financial help was a 'bad' thing. As if a loan, putting debt on their shoulders, was more than they were prepared to sacrifice for the business.
Maybe, it's none of those reasons - maybe women aren't trying to get loans or funding because they already know their gender works against them.
Mind you, this is not to say the men don't deserve funding. This is not to say some ventures, whether led by men or women, don't deserve funding. It's to say - women are as talented and as smart as the men, folks. Banks and VCs should decide on the basis of the idea, the executive team, past successes (though past success is no guarantee of future success), and the integrity of the CEO, herself (or himself). Gender should never have anything to do with the decision to fund or not to fund.
One VC I talked with recently asked me, "What are you going to do now?" after citing several reasons he couldn't invest... one of them being that we hadn't proven the pet blogger community was going anywhere. I mean, a thriving social community online - that isn't worth investing in, is it?
I answered, "I'm going to do it without you."
And, so I am. But, I wish funding sources would take women more seriously and not continue to live in that old Dick and Jane world of "Father Knows Best." Women, especially baby boomers like me, are a force to be reckoned with... just watch.