On Thursday 21st July, Annapurna held their second ever ForTheFounders live event.
This time, the discussion was regarding Women Founders with the topic being “The Future is Female”.
The discussion was set up as a chance to learn more from empowering women to find out their backstory of becoming a founder and how they managed to set up their business to become a success within their industry.
Our host, Chief Evangelist, Mark Frost interviews our panel of women including:
Carola Jonas – CEO and Co-Founder of Everty, an electric vehicle charging network and charging station management software solution. Everty works with EV owners, businesses, utilities and other organisations to increase the uptake of EVs and making EV ownership and use easier.
Jerrica Kirkley – Queer trans woman, Chief Medical Officer, doctor and startup founder based in Denver, Colorado. Founder of Plume, an app-based gender-affirming care service for trans folks, to increase access to gender-affirming medical care across the country. Her goal is to not only provide much-needed and lifesaving medical services but to transform the way the world thinks about healthcare and gender.
Sarah Hawley – CEO and Founder of Growmotely, the world’s first end-to-end platform that facilitates conscious companies in hiring equally-conscious remote professionals – of all nationalities – into long-term remote jobs. Driven by her passion for the freedom that remote work provides professionals and companies alike, she is trailblazing the space – as a thought leader and creator – where remote work, conscious leadership, and personal and professional growth intersect. Shoestring recognised her as one of the Top Female Entrepreneurs under 40.
To kick things off, after the speaker introductions, Mark asked how the Founders recruit their staff.
Sarah said that the remote workspace naturally attracts women. Women have typically had to put their careers on hold but remote work avoids that issue and allows parents to look after their kids and work at the same time. 60% of Growmotely identify as women.
Jerrica believes a remote environment increases diversity, and rather than solely focussing on attracting women, Plume look at gender in an expansive way. Plume recognises people regardless of their gender who have been under-represented and over 50% of the company are trans-identified, 80% LGBTQ and the majority of the company of women.
Carola said that people look at who is in the management team of a business and if women don’t see other women, then they won’t apply. Over 50% of Everty are women.
Mark then asked what are the attractions of having a women leader?
Sarah said that feminine energy is intuitive and nurturing vs masculine energy which is action, momentum and strength. If you marry both of those up from a founder’s perspective, there will be a balance. She believes that diversity brings greater perspectives.
“There is a significant lack of representation and the advantage of joining a company who’s leader has been traditionally underrepresented means that it can create mentorship, inspiration and welcoming.”
Mark questioned whether any of the founders had faced any bias.
Since 2009, Sarah has not faced any discriminational bias because she has been her own Founder.
However, Sarah was previously on the board of Professional Associations in Australia and was the youngest female board member. She was told to step down to let another man be Vice-President and therefore eventually decided to walk away from the board.
“50% of businesses every year are started by women. Every single day I thank the women who have walked before me and I hold my responsibility to do the same, raise the money and grow the company and show people that it is possible to do as an underrepresented Founder.”
Unfortunately, there is an unconscious bias that we are facing on a day-to-day basis, especially with male VC’s. The problems are so systemic, that even female VC’s struggle to get money for their fund.
Mark then asked “Do you witness a gender pay gap?”
Jerrica said that within the healthcare profession she sees many laws and structured society. Some roles will be harder to get into and some will be higher pay. Some could say that it’s just a speciality difference but it’s actually down to who can actually get into the field.
Carola hasn’t seen a pay gap yet in early startups. In Australia there has been a lack of software developers who can ask for any salary, even women in that sector. Within early-stage startups, the general pay gap between the market rate is much bigger as start-ups cannot match these salaries.
Have the founders ever felt silenced?
Sarah said that if you don’t look the same or feel different to others, then it can be harder to speak up, especially when a safe space hasn’t been created for you to do so. It is important for all leaders to create a safe space for others to be heard.
What support systems can be put in place for women leaders?
Sarah said it is important to accept that we do have biases, so big corporate companies need to do more. You should unpack these biases and allow people to understand more about the systemic issues.
“It is important to feel like you are in an environment in which you can thrive.”
Jerrica said that we are all responsible for equity and inequity. If we constantly go through these traditional recruitment methods we will see these forms of oppression.
Carola stated that the best thing people can do is to be aware of biases and recognise them.
What advice can you give to women that are trying to start up their careers or become a founder?
“You are the creator of your own destiny, so don’t be afraid. It is about letting go of the right ways of doing things and not following rules.”
Sarah expressed that you should know what your vision is but you shouldn’t try to make it perfect.
Jerrica said that you should have the freedom to build the space that you want to see in the world. There are always confines but you can create your own bandwidth and you should take advantage of the mentors you have around you.
Carola agreed that mentors are important. She suggested that you should look at your own personality and your risk appetite and find out which personality type you are.
Mark then rounded up the conversation by asking where the Founders got their inspiration from.
Sarah said she came from a low socio-economic background and as a teenager was in a narrow-minded community. She then travelled across Europe which made her realise that there was so much more to the world than what she had experienced and wanted to get out of her comfort zone.
Carola said that you naturally set the bar high for yourself but you are constantly setting new goals.
Jerrica’s inspiration came from her nature of being a doctor and wanting to make an impact on those who were suffering. She saw the gap in care that existed and wanted to dedicate her career to closing that gap.
Please watch the full live stream here, and make sure you connect to the Founders on Linkedin.
Written by Jasmine Mitchell, Growth Marketing Executive – Annapurna Recruitment
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