Welcome to The Age of Female Rage
Updated: Feb 3
When I’m not juggling jobs, dogs and friends, I’m exploring The Female Rage.
I’m aware that I might come across quite angry here. I won't apologise for that, because I am.
In one of the few investors and supporters meetings I endured in the last few weeks (I actually do love it) a potential investor asked me why I had specified that Swans Events are a female led company on our website, implying if that was perhaps sexist and discriminatory. I had a very confused expression for what felt like a very long time.
Erm? It’s 2020, the year of HELL. We’re being punished for every tiny crime and injustice we have committed in our lifetime. I understand now more than ever why this has happened.
I decided to start looking into proof and tangible reasons to present to the potential investor; I was going to mansplain it to them, to justify my rage. I came across some interesting statistics that I think are worth sharing.
Venture capital investors are overwhelmingly male - about 90% in the UK and US (British Business Bank).
While the proportion of startups founded by women has doubled to 20% from 2009 to 2019, the investment they receive is staggeringly low (According to a crunch base EOY diversity report).
According to a new study from University of California, San Diego, “women did 40-50% worse in terms of just getting preliminary interest or getting actual funding”. They say male investors “consciously or unconsciously” (giving the benefit of the doubt on this occasion is lush!) prefer working with entrepreneurs that look like them; also male investors could hold an incorrect stereotype of female entrepreneurs, believing their business to be less attractive to investment opportunities.
“With investing, there’s a human tendency to take an idea and make it relevant to your own experience, and think about the pain points you felt. A lot of the men we pitched, said: this is interesting, let me go home and ask my wife” (Afton Vechery, co-founder & CEO of San Francisco-based Modern Fertility, at this year FemTech forum)
I can’t help but think that there’s still a sense that you’re taking a risk when you invest in a woman, although funnily enough they’re more likely to succeed - “Craigslist founder Craig Newmark noted that women-led startups have a 35 percent higher return on investment”
Male investors claim that they either don’t have first hand information or are uncomfortable with the topic. So do investors have an aversion to talk about women’s ideas so much to belittle a generation of female entrepreneurs? Apparently this is especially true if your business is about women’s health - especially vagina-related businesses. Fortune reports that only 4.4 percent of VC deals in 2017 went to female founders. Furthermore, only 2.2 percent of VC funding in 2017 went to female founders. Bleak.
"The other day I came across something that for some reason still surprised me in 2020: the word vagina on facebook and twitter is often censored in promotional material, as it’s associated with sexual connotations, but you can type penis, erection and erectile dysfunction!"
In our industry, there are a few articles from theatre research studies that blame Arts Council England for not addressing the issue, and failing to help the gender gap - in particular they show that theatre is lagging behind other art forms; “of the funding awarded to NPO theatres, 21% was controlled by companies with a female artistic director”. This is all despite the fact that about 65% of theatre audiences are women and more women buy London theatre tickets than men - I go to see shows with girlfriends most of the time.
Despite the demoralising picture I have been painting, the purpose of my reflection is to help (even if just a tiny bit) to destigmatise sexuality in investment, especially in the arts sector. To harness The Female Rage.
And who knows, perhaps the biggest driving force for change is to say the word 'vagina' over and over and OVER? Especially in public places...
(How many times have you used the word 'dick' to swear in front of people and nobody bats an eye? Just saying.)
I’m hoping that this is the direction that our society is going in - it’s interesting times out there!
For real though, I'm an advocate for driving change with our wallets. Below are just some of the shows, companies and businesses that champion female empowerment across the arts industries - maybe give them a research, a follow, a penny or two..