In preparation for Dr Diane Atkinson’s talk for our members today (Monday 8th March), I picked up my copy of her book, ‘Rise Up Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes’, and flicked back through its wonderful pages.
I was lucky to meet Diane a couple of years ago and have been enthralled with her and her storytelling ever since.
Reading about the sacrifices made by the suffragettes (ostracisation, imprisonment, hunger strikes) makes me feel incredibly grateful for what they achieved for women. It also makes me feel lucky that I was born at a time of far more equitable relationships and career opportunities. It does, however, also make me feel aggrieved that we’re still not at a place of total gender equality – over 100 years after their call for ‘votes for women’ was granted legally.
There have been many terrible consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which I won’t linger on here, but perhaps one of the more unseen and insidious consequences has been the impact on gender equality in the homes of working women. Studies, including this one from the London School of Economics, have found that women have taken the majority of the burden of additional childcare and homeschooling during lockdown. Women have also been more likely to be furloughed, and leave or lose their jobs.
These underlying factors have seemingly reversed the positive trend of investment into female-founded companies. The figures were small but they were at least heading in the right direction: In 2019, a record 2.8% (yes, that decimal point is in the right place!) of venture capital investment went into businesses created by women. Then, in 2020, that figure fell to 2.3%. You can read more about this trend in this article from the Harvard Business Review.
Those figures are from the US and, unfortunately, the situation is even worse here in the UK. Businesses founded by women receive less than 1% of venture capital investment, with male-founded businesses receiving 89% of capital and mixed-gender founding teams receiving 10%, which you can read more about in this article from the Financial Times.
The Joy Club was founded by a female entrepreneur (me), we have a female Chair of the Board (the amazing Tania Boler, herself a female founder) and we have a number of female investors who – alongside Tania and myself – currently own 79.5% of the company. These investors are angel investors, not venture capital investors, so we’re not contributing to that 1% figure yet. However, it is our ambition to be amongst the pioneering, female-founded businesses that break through that 1% ceiling!
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them. And may we invest in them and be invested in by them!
Hannah Thomson, Founder CEO