Finding the Right Mentor!

Finding the Right Mentor

By Matt D'Angelo, Business News Daily

 

Finding the right mentor is not really a secret to success – it's as obvious as it is essential. Learning from someone older, wiser and more experienced is an invaluable business opportunity, whether you've just started your first job or you're halfway through your career. As we slip into the day-to-day routine of working life, it's easy to get lost in the moment – our problems are 6 inches from our face, and a mentor can be the person to reset things so we can look at our careers and growth from a new perspective.

 

None of this is new information. We all would love to have a guiding hand help us figure out this complex and stressful professional world. If you're looking for a mentor, these are the three most important things to keep in mind:

 

  • Define what you want out of your career and what you need to learn to get there.

 

  • Approach a mentor relationship as if it's a business friendship – be casual and friendly, and try not to ask weird questions like, "Will you be my mentor?"

 

  • Start with your own professional network. We often already have mentors who provide advice in various ways, and all it takes is a little effort from us to grow that connection into an ongoing relationship.

 

Vicki Salemi, a career expert for popular job search platform Monster, said it's important for a mentor and a mentee to realize that the connection doesn't always need to be an intense, formal thing. It's better to focus on maintaining the professional relationship and learning what you can.

 

"It doesn't have to be completely intensive, and that's what both the mentor and mentee should know – it's an ongoing dialogue conversation, and it's a relationship that's not going to completely overhaul your life," Salemi said.

 

Part of finding a mentor means learning how to appropriately follow up, add value to your mentor's life and career, and be proactive in your own career growth. These lessons can apply to any worker at any stage of their career. Especially for young workers who are just emerging in an industry or lack the experience needed to progress, you might feel self-conscious and wary of your endeavors. Sometimes, all you need in these moments is someone to look up to, someone who has been in your shoes but created their own path to success.

 

"The modern mentor can elevate both your mind and your career in a way that cannot be taught in school, a boardroom or on a business trip," said Demetri Argyropoulos, CEO of Avant Global. "For me, mentorship has been an invaluable part of my career growth."

 

 

The first step to find a mentor is defining what you want out of your career. This may not mean planning out your whole career – it's important to leave room to go where things take you – but defining what you want in the short term can give you a clear path forward. Consider your career path and narrow it down so you can determine who has your dream job and who you admire, said Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps.

 

"Successful mentoring relationships happen when the mentor and mentee are the right match," Driscoll said. "Reach out to someone you think you are comfortable with, who can be a neutral sounding board, and [who] will also provide great advice."

 

You can also look in your own professional circle. These individuals can be former bosses, former professors or teachers, co-workers in another department, or family friends. As you look, try to prioritize someone who can give you long-term advice about your industry and has a good idea of your own company and what it takes to advance within your role.

 

"I think it's probably best to have a combination of somebody who knows your internal organization well but not necessarily works there," Salemi said. "They can provide that insight with having a grander view of your career's growth."

 

Someone who has a general idea of your current role and industry will be able to give you advice on things like new projects to explore, certifications or training you need to get ahead, and how to manage office politics within your organization.

 

Once you're ready to reach out to someone, it's important to keep things casual. Salemi said your approach to a potential mentor should be the same as an approach to a potential friend – your relationship will develop over time. Don't force things; stay relaxed. Lessons and advice will come over time.

 

"It's not like you'll be at a conference and chat with someone sitting next to you and say, 'Oh, will you be my mentor?'" Salemi said. "It's a process. It's kind of like when you think about friends in your life, how you met them and how maybe over the period of a year or so you've gotten to become really good friends … in the beginning, you didn't say, 'Will you be my friend?' That would be completely awkward."

 

The difference between mentorships and friendships, however, is in how you follow up.

 

 

Once you've met with someone and had an initial conversation, if you think they can provide valuable advice to you as your career progresses, make sure you think critically about how and when to follow up. If they're open to continuing a dialogue, set calendar reminders on when to follow up. How often you speak with your mentor is up to you, but the goal is long-term, continued insight. That could mean hopping on the phone or meeting for coffee once a quarter, or even just twice a year.

 

"You definitely should make a note on your calendar, because we're so busy time can escape us," Salemi said. "Let's say you connect with your mentor by the end of [October] – make a note to check in with them over the holidays, and then maybe ask to get on their calendar literally for January."

 

While in-person meetings are important, social media offers mentees the opportunity to have regular, no-pressure interactions with mentors. Use Twitter and LinkedIn for light things – interesting articles, book recommendations, important industry news, etc.

 

Social media gives mentees the opportunity to nudge their mentors, reminding them not only that they exist outside of the semiannual dinner, but also that they value the relationship. Be sure not to nudge too frequently, though, or you'll come off as pushy. More importantly, don't discuss important career ideas over email or social media – save that for the in-person interactions.

 

"Make a point of trying to meet up with them," Salemi said. "If their calendar is packed, think outside the box in terms of 'OK, I'll meet you in your office' or 'Can we FaceTime?' just to get that interaction … you shouldn't [just] be sending emails."

 

One final, more meaningful way to connect with a mentor is regular mail. A thank-you note or holiday card can go a long way to show you value your mentor's advice and presence in your life.

 

 

Whether you're the founder of a brand-new startup or an entrepreneur with a bit of business experience under your belt, you can always benefit from a mentor.

 

"A mentor can serve as a sounding board at critical points throughout your career," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of staffing firm The Creative Group. "They can provide guidance on career management you may not be able to get from other sources and an insider's perspective on the business, as well as make introductions to key industry contacts."

 

Doña Storey, OPEN Mentorship Institute mentor and American Express OPENadvisor on procurement, noted that mentors can help their mentees identify and avoid business pitfalls, and work through the challenges ahead of them.

 

Another important aspect Salemi pointed out is that, when we're immersed in our own careers, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. It's important to have advocates for you – especially early in your career. These should be people other than your boss, and they should provide insight on getting ahead as well as supporting your overall goals.

 

 

At the most basic level, your mentor should have more experience than you and a track record of success.

 

"A great mentor is someone whose qualities make up a much better version of who you envision yourself to become," said Argyropoulos. "On the other hand, some great mentors may help you to learn who not to be like – for example, a very successful businessman who is struggling in his personal life. Great mentors have a complementary skill set and bring different qualities to the table. Different perspectives are valuable in the mentor-mentee relationship."

 

Doug White, career expert and editor of career and management insights website TCG Blog, recommended seeking a mentor who has a strong character and traits worth emulating.

 

"Look for mentors who are authentic, empathetic, creative and honest," said White. "You need someone who's caring and invested in your professional growth, but also someone who will speak truth to you. Sometimes you need some constructive criticism or a reality check, while other times you need a high five or pat on the back. A well-chosen mentor can provide all of those things."

 

A mentor in the same business area as you may better understand your business's challenges and concerns, but Storey said that fruitful mentoring relationships don't necessarily have to happen within the same industry. Leadership philosophy may be more important.

 

"Make sure that the mentor shares a similar value system in leadership and management," Storey said. "Knowing who you are as a leader is critical before entering into a mentoring relationship. Only then can you align yourself with the right guide."

 

 

As a mentee, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of asking a lot of your mentor without giving anything in return. While your mentor might be happy to provide you with advice regardless, it's still important to think of some ways to show your appreciation and make yourself available for your mentor.

 

Salemi said, at the very least, it's important to prove you appreciate the relationship by valuing your mentor's advice and time – if only by arriving at meetings early or adjusting your own schedule to make a meeting more convenient for your mentor. Young professionals may not have a lot to offer their mentors, but they can offer them respect and appreciation.

 

"You can be a great mentee to your mentor by following up when you say you're going to – staying on their radar – because chances are, if they're the right fit for you, they'll appreciate providing information," Salemi said. "Thank them, acknowledge them, don't squander their time."

 

 

The whole point of seeking out a mentor is to get important insight and advance your career. The only way that's possible is if you're proactive about your own situation.

 

"We need to be proactive – what it comes down to is everyone needs to be proactive in their own career advancement and growth," Salemi said. "Let's say you like your job and you think, 'Oh, things are going well' – you still need a mentor because, at some point, you may hit a plateau."

 

With a mentor, keep it simple and stay relaxed about the relationship. There's often a lesson to be learned from someone who's further along in their career. The key is being open to whatever lesson or message that is.

 

"Seek out someone who you want to emulate, who can help you in areas where you're deficient in knowledge and skills," Argyropoulos added. "My most impactful mentor experiences evolved through sharing experiences and stories, and at some point, the mentee can also teach the mentor. You want to create an environment where you're paying that knowledge forward to others."

 

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Closing the Tech Diversity Gap

Closing the Tech Diversity Gap: A Complex Issue Without A Simple Answer

By Casey Leins, Staff Writer

U.S. News

 

IN 2013, MICROSOFT Corporation launched a program designed to transition service members and veterans into the technology industry.

 

The program, Microsoft Software & Systems Academy, now has 14 locations, boasts a 93 percent graduation rate, and has the capacity to graduate around 1,000 students each year.

 

"Veterans are a talent pool we haven't sought in the past," says Microsoft's Vice President of Military Affairs Chris Cortez. "And the military vets very much represent our diverse country."

 

 

Cortez joined other industry leaders and researchers Thursday at U.S. News & World Report's Stem Solutions: Workforce of Tomorrow conference in Washington D.C., to discuss the state of diversity in STEM and how to bridge the gap that still exists.

 

The panelists agreed that veterans are just one example of talent pools that have not been fully explored.

 

A Multi-Faceted Issue

 

But locating these new, diverse groups are only one part of the solution. One theme the panelists reiterated throughout the presentation was that there is no simple solution to bridge the gap and that there are many factors at play.

 

Not only do underrepresented groups need better access to STEM education and careers, but company's cultures need to change and be more inclusive to retain those employees.

 

"It's not just about fixing the student, but how do we change the culture of the institutional structures and frameworks?" says Courtney Tanenbaum, who studies these issues at the American Institutes for Research.

 

Intel Corporation is an example of a company that has been working to increase its diversity and retention rates.

 

"What Intel is trying to accomplish inside the walls of our company is to really mitigate inclusion and diversity issues. It's what society has not yet done outside of our walls" says Barbara Whye, the company's vice president of human resources and chief diversity and inclusion officer.

 

She notes that Intel's research reveals that employees who feel included are seven times more likely to stay at the company.

 

Motivating Underrepresented Groups

 

During the session, a high schooler asked the panelists how she, as a woman of color, can stay motivated and determined to pursue a STEM career despite the fact that she is afraid to fail.

 

The student said that she was one of two females in her school district last year to take the AP computer science exam; the audience applauded. Though she wants to pursue a job in STEM, she said, she is concerned about making errors in front of her teachers and peers in difficult courses and feels pressure to perform well.

 

Tanenbaum said the fact that mistakes are seen as failures is a flaw in the nation's education system.

 

"That mindset needs to shift," she added. "That probably means starting really early [in conveying a different message] to kids."

 

The panelists also noted that role models are important for underrepresented groups.

 

Allison Scott, chief research officer at Kapor Center for Social Impact, stressed the large impact of industry leaders interacting with these students.

 

 

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FIVE WOMEN OF COLOR WHO SHOULD BE ON YOUR RADAR

Five Women of Color Who Should Be On Your Radar

By: Lauren Wesley Wilson

 

(Forbes) - There is no doubt that 2018 is becoming the “Year of the Woman,” with the celebration of the first anniversary of the Women’s March to the launch of the Times Up Movement and much more to surely come. Our voices are actually being heard loud, clear, and more than ever before. I proclaim that this year will not only become the “Year of the Woman” but the year for women of color.

 

Women of color are making great strides in the workplace, breaking barriers, and becoming C-suite leaders with impact and influence. While there are many women of color who should be on your radar, I’ve narrowed it down to just five for now. These women are dynamic and making changes inside and outside their office. They’re not speaking at every conference or sucking up all the awards at every industry show. They are strategic where they spend their time, how they show up and what they deliver.

 

Get to know these five insightful women:

 

   

 

1. Rose Stuckey Kirk, President of the Verizon Foundation at Verizon

 

Why you should know her: Rose Stuckey Kirk became president of the Verizon Foundation eight years ago, but has been with Verizon since 1998. She is a shining example of how successful you can be despite gender or race. As a woman of color, she has broken the glass ceiling with her C-level position, serving as a chief corporate social responsibility officer. In her role at Verizon, she is able to provide access to new technology and STEM programs to youth who traditionally come from underserved communities. Rose delivers the type of speech that leaves audiences begging for more time and time again. She is poised, deliberate, and entertaining.

 

 

2. Gloria Mayfield Banks

 

Why you should know about her: Gloria is an internationally renowned motivational speaker who leads a successful sales team as the #1 ranked Elite National Sales Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. Her latest book “Quantum Leaps” outlines the steps to take to excel in your life. Gloria has spoken all over the nation on topics such as women empowerment and instilling leadership goals in girls. Gloria is an electrifying speaker and will keep you focused and holding on to every word. She has overcome domestic violence and dyslexia. Her podcast "Women Do It Better" has Gloria speaking about the gifts we all have and how to find, understand, and master them in order to excel in your personal and professional life. She is a force to be reckon with.

 

RELATEDWHY THE ENTREPRENEURIAL FUTURE IS FEMALE

 

 

3. Susan Jin Davis, Vice President Environmental Affairs, Chief Sustainability Officer, Comcast/NBCUniversal

 

Why you should know her: Hilarious, intelligent, and spot on. Susan Jin Davis knows her worth and the stakeholders she serves. In her time at Comcast, Susan negotiated a historic memorandum of understanding between Comcast and the Asian American community as part of the Company’s merger with NBCUniversal, creating an unheard of commitment in the areas of programming, supplier and employment diversity and community investment. She serves on Comcast’s Internal Diversity Council and is a Company liaison to the Comcast and NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council. Susan is also an executive sponsor of Asian Pacific Americans at Comcast, a Company Employee Resource Group.

 

 

4. Radhika Jones, Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair

 

Why you should know her: Radhika is not only the first ever Indian American to be Editor in Chief at Vanity Fair, but she is also the first woman of color to ever be Editor in Chief since the publication’s inception in 1913. Radhika Jones is a Harvard University graduate and has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia, where she was also a lecturer. Her position in Vanity Fair has broken new grounds, and will hopefully open the door for other women of color to be in such roles in the near future.

 

 

5. Linda Sarsour, Political Activist and Co-Chair of the Women’s March Movement

 

Why you should know her: As a child of Palestinian immigrants, some of Linda’s early activism entailed defending the civil rights of Muslims living in America. She helped to organize the American Muslim community's response to the Black Lives Matter protests by forming "Muslims for Ferguson." In 2017, the organizers of the Women’s march recruited Sarsour as co-chair of the event. She became co-chair of 2017’s Day Without a Woman, which took place on International Women's Day. She is a loud and strong advocate for women’s rights as well as for underrepresented women of color around the nation.

 

Lauren Wesley Wilson is the founder of ColorCommwhich holds its annual ColorComm Conference for women of color in communications, marketing, & advertising. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

 

 

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WHY THIS VC IS BETTING ON WOMEN, PEOPLE OF COLOR, AND LGBTQ FOUNDERS

Why This VC Is Betting on Women, People Of Color, and LGBTQ Founders

 
 
Feb. 7, 2018
 

This article originally ran in Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter about deals and dealmakers.

 

Four years ago, Arlan Hamilton was living out of a hotel room that she shared with her mom. At that point, she had given up a career as a live music production coordinator to become a venture capitalist. There were a few problems though: She didn’t have a formal finance background and virtually no connections in Silicon Valley.

 

Her goal? Raise a fund that invests in companies founded by underrepresented entrepreneurs, including women, people of color, LGBTQ company founders, or any combination of the three. She cold-emailed venture investors, explained her strategy, and asked them to back her fund. She eventually managed to raise enough capital to launch Backstage Capital. “[They] saw that I wasn’t just a VC tourist — I was serious,” she says.

 

Hamilton convinced a number of remarkable limited partners to back her fund, including Susan Kimberlin, Marc Andreessen, Chris Sacca, Stewart Butterfield, and Ellen Pao. Since 2015, Backstage has deployed approximately $3 million across more than 60 pre-seed and seed stage startups. The portfolio includes companies such as Thesis Couture, Mars Reel, and Tinsel.

 

Fortune spoke with Hamilton about why she believes a diverse portfolio is good for business.

 

Tell me about your investment thesis. What are some of the key elements you look for in a founder or company before investing?

 

We invest in founders who are women, people of color, and/or LGBT. We felt like a lot of these people and companies were being overlooked, undervalued, and underestimated. With a little bit of leveling the playing field, we believe that these people are equipped to handle an erratic market and the various ups and downs in the startup world.

 

How do you think about dealflow, and what’s your current process of driving it?

 

When I first started, the question I would get from potential LPs over and over again was: Will you have the dealflow for this? How will you find them? We see more than a thousand companies every year. All of them, except for the several that haven’t researched us, are led by underrepresented and underestimated founders.

 

You’ve said previously that you don’t look at investing as “social impact” or a “charity.” Can you elaborate on that?

 

I think that “social impact” and “charity” are two different things. While in the past I’ve said we’re not an impact fund, I’ve actually come around to understand that we are an impact fund, and I’m proud of that. We are an impact fund because of the impact we have, but we are also looking for outsize returns. Those things do not have to be mutually exclusive.

 

Now, I will say that we are not a charity or a non-profit. When you talk to a group of white, affluent male investors and tell them you’re investing in women of color, the first thing that comes out is, “Oh, that’s really nice of you. That’s a great mission.” They immediately correlate us to needing a helping hand. This is not that.

 

What do you think about VC firms forming independent funds to back diverse founders separately from their own firms?

 

Here’s the thing: In an ideal world, they wouldn’t think about it as something separate. But at least, it’s a step forward. I’d rather them do that than completely ignore it. I would be happy to go along to the top 10 funds in the country and help them do that. It’s all about getting the capital access — the politics of it we can talk about another time. You have to start somewhere, so I volunteer to go into any fund and help them start a scout fund that is scouting for diversity. That is not a bad idea, and I applaud the people who are already doing that. They may not have it perfect, but they’re attempting it, and that’s a good start.

 

On average, women founders receive less than 3% of total VC dollars and women of color receive only 0.2%. What needs to happen for these stats to change?

 

A few things: One, more and more angels of color and women angels need to step up and meet founders early in their journey. There’s power in numbers. Two, some of these companies need to have more support at the post-seed level. There’s a lot that has been done at the pre-seed and seed level, but then there’s nowhere for them to go after that. I think larger investors think we’ve taken care of it because there’s a black woman writing a check. That’s not enough. We just can’t do it alone. The larger investors need to step up.

 

You support founders in the early stage, but what do you advise them to do as their company grows and they need further capital?

 

I struggle with that question because I’ve seen so much. I want to tell them that this is a meritocracy and that as long as you keep hitting your KPIs, you’ll be met with a Series A investor and you’ll be part of that percentage that makes it to the next level. But the reality is that the best and brightest and most deserving — even with the numbers, even with the traction — are being shut out. So I don’t know the answer to that until the larger investors really take this seriously and put money behind it.

 

How can the industry get more funding to female founders & more women partners in VC firms?

 

Over the next 18 months, there will be two or three major exits that are just too hard to ignore that will come from women or come from people of color. They will be profound exits that shock the system. Once that happens, a lot of investors will take note, and I believe that will happen by the middle of 2019. I also think that there needs to be a group of LPs who demand that their fund managers are looking at diversity and are actively looking at leveling the playing field.

 

What are some interesting industry trends in tech right now you think Term Sheet readers should be paying attention to?

 

I actually don’t pay much attention to industry trends in tech, to be quite honest. I just spend a lot of time hyperfocused on what we’re doing. I will say that the more I learn about blockchain, the more excited I get about it. It could potentially level the playing field.

 

Do you think cryptocurrency and the blockchain has the power to disrupt venture capital as it stands today?

 

Yes — it has the power to turn it upside down. The people who aren’t figuring out that Silicon Valley doesn’t represent the United States are the same people who laugh and scoff at cryptocurrency. You may laugh at the silliness of the scams but the root of what’s happening is that the world has figured out a different way to communicate and trade with each other. It’s like a new language, and if you aren’t able to read and write in that language over the next couple of years, you’ll be left in the dust.

 

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

 

Go home. Take the day off. Stop working. I’m a big proponent of self-care, and I’ll never stop talking about it. If self-care isn’t part of your daily and business routine, you’re doing it wrong. It’s about recognizing how valuable you are, and you can’t run a company if you’re not able to take care of yourself first.

WHY THE (ENTREPRENEURIAL) FUTURE IS FEMALE

WHY THE (ENTREPRENEURIAL) FUTURE IS FEMALE

Women own only 5 percent of startups. So, when we talk about inequality, how about talking about women entrepreneurs?

 

By: Jeffrey Hayzlett

 

This time of year is normally filled with stories about holiday cheer and yuletide goodwill to all. 'Tis the season after all. No wonder that in years past, I've typically written about Christmas movies, business or some other jolly topic.

 

Related: The Best Places for Women to Work in 2017

 

This year, however,it would an oversight to address the holidays without addressing what's dominated the pre-holiday news cycle: gender inequality and sexual harassment. Everyone is talking about these things, and not just media personalities, Hollywood celebs and other high-profile individuals. (Those are the ones making the headlines!)

 

One reason why so many are talking? While public figures, in a public setting, are the ones we're hearing about most, the reality is that sexual harassment and discrimination occur on a regular basis, even in fields like ours.

 

We can’t eradicate the underlying inequality from every industry by snapping our fingers, but we can do something to combat it in our own industry. Entrepreneurship, after all, is contagious. It’s a state of mind, a way of life: A good idea deserves to be launched, regardless of who is launching it. Yet the reality is so often about who gets that opportunity, and when.

 

Let me show you some numbers:

  • Women own only 5 percent of startups.
  • Only 7 percent of partners at top 100 venture capital firms are women.
  • Women hold only 11 percent of the executive positions in Silicon Valley.
  • Last year, venture capitalists invested just $1.46 billion in women-led companies, while male-led companies earned $58.2 billion in investments, according to M&A and venture capital database Pitchbook.

 

How do we, as entrepreneurs and business owners, help address this national issue? How do we address the gender gap in our own midst, in entrepreneurship? And what does a middle-aged, white man know about this gap to begin with?

 

I’ll start by admitting that I’m not an expert in the topic, but as a student of human nature, I see that the tools to combat this are right in front of us -- if we know where to look. Here are some steps we can take.

 

Set goals.

 

Rome wasn’t built in a day and the issue of gender parity won’t go away in a week, a month or even a year. Set a goal. For example, Oath CEO Tim Armstrong said during a cable TV news interview that his mission was to fill at least half of his company’s leadership positions by 2020 with women.

 

He also said that Oath (a company that was born from the merger between AOL and Yahoo!) is “roughly [at] the 30 percent [level] right now.” He said he wanted to achieve his goal of 50 percent female leadership by promoting from within and creating new positions in areas where women can lead.

 

He said that his initial plan was to launch a new company within the Oath umbrella, where all leadership positions would be filled by women. In fact, the entire company would employ women.

 

His plan seemed flawless until he had a conversation with none other than feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

 

She reminded him that women don’t need a separate workspace -- quite the opposite, actually. She pointed out to Armstrong that business owners at all levels need to take more risks within their own ecosystems, as companies perform better where men and women can work side by side.

 

According to a McKinsey report, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to outperform above average, financially, within their industry.

 

At my own company, I’ve hired more women than men. I know what they’re capable of and I’ve taken steps to empower them to make decisions. One of those steps involves my response when someone asks me a question.

 

“I will not do the work of my very talented team,” I sometimes reply. That means that I want those team members to make the decision. If their decision ends up being wrong, it’s a learning experience. (More often than not, my team makes the right decision.)

 

Ensure equal access to capital.

 

Despite many advances in gender equality, it’s still an old boys network in terms of financing and investing in startups. A study by Harvard Business School found that investors prefer entrepreneurial ventures pitched by men. The study also took a look at video pitches and found they were twice as likely to get funded when they were narrated by men.

 

This doesn’t even make sense to me. If it’s a good idea, with a good business plan -- fund it!

 

A quarterly report by Fundera found that female entrepreneurs on average ask for roughly $35,000 less in financing their small businesses than men. The report also found that across the board, women entrepreneurs get offered smaller loans (2.5 times less money), than men do.

 

Because it’s so hard to get funding from VCs or angel investors, especially female-led startups, many organizations have taken steps to address these challenges. Companies like Watermark, SheWorx, Merge Lanes and BBG Ventures, to name a few, are making it easier not just to acquire capital, but to access it as well.

 

Despite women-led businesses being the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurship, they still comprise a small percentage of companies funded by VCs. Some blame this on under-representation of women’s businesses, but I think that statement is a cop-out. As I’ve said before, good ideas aren’t a monopoly for one segment of the population to own.

 

In my own company, I encourage anyone with an idea to step forward -- whether it’s the president of the company or the intern. A good idea from a female entrepreneur deserves the same shot at funding as any other good idea from a male colleague.

 

Share the spotlight.

 

Earlier this year, I attended a conference in New York City. Throughout the conference, I noticed that the majority of the panels were all-male, and I thought to myself, “Why isn’t there a woman on that panel?” Our company does a lot of events throughout the year, so I made a mental note to tell my C-suite network team to make sure we have a diverse list of speakers and panelists at every conference and summit we do.

 

In fact, this problem is a prevalent one. The upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES), was recently called out by female tech executives for its lack of inclusion and diversity. It might be one of the largest tech events, but its keynote-speaker lineup lacked any women.

 

Twitter CMO Leslie Berland, in particular, took to social media on Dec. 3 to make her feelings known, tweeting, “I’ve got a long list of amazing women to hit your stage. Let’s talk. #changetheratio.” And JP Morgan Chase’s CMO, Kristen Lemkau,  chimed in, naming a long list of women innovators in “less time than it took to drink coffee.”

 

As a result of this backlash, the show organizers made changes to the program. And that was the right thing to do: Giving women exposure as part of a panel, as a keynote speaker or in some other visible role, helps narrow the gender gap -- if only in a small way.

 

Make no mistake about it: The problem we face is a big one. It's a systemic problem that none of us can change alone, but when we all work toward multiple solutions, progress happens.

 

As business owners and entrepreneurs, we need to take a good, hard look at ourselves and tackle this issue head on. We must ask ourselves, "Are we part of the problem?" And, if so, we have to fix it!

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