A few weeks ago Nicole Anderson, CEO of Simulocity invited me to 'Finance for Female Entrepreneurs: Challenges and Opportunities' at Level 39. Lots of women, lots of chat, (wine served before the panel debate *natch*) and eight women on stage! Eight!
(I'm surprised the audience didn't come out in hives ;-) Video available here.
The women on stage all offered personal stories and advice on the types of experiences women entrepreneurs face when trying to secure funding for their new companies. They ranged from the good ("If you pitch to female VCs you will get a lot of support and
advice") to the head-buttingly frustrating ("If you are a woman of a certain age, you will be asked about your fertility.")
One comment, from Clare Flynn Levy, founder and CEO of Essentia Analytics, stayed with me. When first looking for investment, one investor told Clare he was hesitant to offer funding because 'there wasn't a history of women running this type of company.'
Her company provides software for fund managers, by the way.
I want that to sink in for a bit. Say you’re a man, and an entrepreneur, and you go with your charts and business plans to present to a venture capital fund or a group of angel investors, and the guys across the table say 'Well, we're not aware of any other
people with size ten shoes running this type of business, so it's a no.' You'd think *fuck right off, douchbags* and you'd be right.
THAT is why that type of think is wrong when directed at women.
The problem with sexism is that it is never a black and white incident. Sexism and misogyny is, 'baked into the system'. Thx @cakeandhackers.
Sexism isn't only Rolf Harris sticking his hand up some teenagers skirt (no, that's a crime) it is the institutionalised behaviour and of how companies and industries work.
I went to the Misys EMEA Market Forum last week. A few months ago Misys bought IND - this unit ran (AGAIN!) an extended version of a skit they performed at Finovate this year. The skit revolved around a put upon father trying to manage his family’s finances,
with his spoiled teenage children asking him for cash.
There was so much wrong with this skit - it is hard to even start. (I'm going to leave out the bad acting because this was a banking conference, not the West End)
The daughter whined about needing money for concert tickets and complained about not having a 'pink' Vespa It's has to be pink, children, because #girls. (Please follow @belindapalmer and @ladygeek to learn all that is wrong with the 'pink it and shrink
it' gadgets aimed at women) The daughter was informed that she was spending too much money and sent on her way.
Meanwhile, the son talked his father through a complicated Google Glass Skype demo and secured €800 to buy stereo equipment. (First off, €800??!! If I ever asked my Dad for €800 it would have to involve being bailed out of jail).
The put upon stage father, then complained about how 'his wife was going to kill him' for lending the son €800. (too right, seriously, these fake people need parenting lessons).
We got on Twitter to have several WTF?? tweets during in the presentation. When discussing the episode after the session all of the men commented 'What was sexist about that - it was demonstrating a family finance app. Keynote speaker Brett King even
(You have to look at the picture at the bottom of the blog, because our admin sucks)
Dear God, let me just say as a former teenage girl, I never acted that way. And now I would never parent that way.
OK - sit down next to me and Auntie Liz will explain all:
Women are outnumbered in many industries and finance and technology are not unaffected.
I have been a speaker at events where I have not only been the only woman on the panel - but the only woman on stage...all day. No one comments on this.
To be honest - if you were going to demonstrate a 'family finance' PFM app wouldn't you want to show the mother? How many studies and
Daily Mail articles do I need to read that say 'Women control the family
budget' to start to think, this might be true?
But this skit showed the father, with a daughter buying things he couldn't relate to 'concert tickets, shoes, pink Vespas' and a son using tech (gadgets!) to buy something he could relate to: stereos.
This skit was not aimed at showing an accurate picture of how family finances work (make your teenagers get part time jobs, please) or was it even trying to win best awkward role play award at the cringe worthy corporate Oscars - it was trying to sell the
product to the people in the room.
And the majority of the people in the room where men.
What that skit said to me was not 'hey look at this snazzy PFM product' it said 'You as a woman do not count, we don't respect you and we won't even acknowledge your presence.'
It is no surprise that so many women leave professional life when chip by chip, tiny, everyday 'baked in' interactions constantly tell them that *they* don't belong. They are other. They cannot play in this arena because this is where people (men) play.
FinTech is by no means the only culprit. And many, women included, have no understanding how 'baked in' sexism really is in our society. While the World Cup is still being decided, and the US is basking in the 'very well done' job performed by the men's
soccer team - ask yourself this:
Who is the all-time leading football goal scorer in the world?
You got a name in mind? Good, now read this.