Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Valentina (@valzarya) here. European courts give the green light to employers to ban headscarves, a former Marine explains what being a woman in the Corps really means, and Kristen reports back from her panel at SXSW. Have a great Wednesday!
On Monday, I had the pleasure of moderating a SXSW panel featuring female investors who are backing women-led companies. The all-star group included Aspect Ventures founding partner Theresia Gouw, BBG Ventures president and managing partner Susan Lyne, and Joyus founder/CEO and angel investor Sukhinder Singh Cassidy. They touched on everything from how to get into angel investing (start by cutting a check for your entrepreneurial friends) to why female-led startups tend to have better outcomes when they have at least one female investor (women investors often have a deeper understanding of the areas where female entrepreneurs are starting companies).
Not surprisingly, the discussion also hit on the pitiful percentage of total funding that goes to women-led companies (you may have caught Val’s story on those stats yesterday). The panelists did express some frustration on that count; “VCs still operate the same way they have for decades,” said Lyne, noting that their mostly-male networks “determine who gets to pitch and therefore, who gets the money.” However, they were far more interested in talking about what female entrepreneurs can do to beat the odds and get the funding they need to grow their businesses.
Below, a few of their best tips. (For more, read my full story on the panel here.)
Your network is your greatest asset. Don’t know any investors? Think about your contacts who are entrepreneurs—especially if they’ve raised money themselves. “Let me tell you who VCs take referrals from,” said Singh Cassidy. “They take them from the people they’ve invested in.” If one of your contacts has gotten funding from an investor you’re targeting, she said: “Go pitch that entrepreneur!”
Go big. Singh Cassidy recalled learning that Lyne had turned down an entrepreneur that the Joyus founder had referred to pitch BBG Ventures. When she called Lyne to get feedback on what had gone wrong, Lyne told her: “Sukhinder, all I can tell you is that I see men pitch unicorns and women pitch businesses.” The issue, according to Lyne, is that women too often “pitch the business they’re building right now.” Investors, she said, want to see you paint a picture of the opportunities you see for the business over time.
Be the best woman for the job. Raising capital, particularly in the early stages, is often as much about pitching yourself as it is the company. In order to intrigue Gouw, you must tell her why you’re the “domain expert.” You must show “why are you the entrepreneur, or the entrepreneurial team, that is going to figure this out,” she said. “Why you, why now?”
— Kristen (@kayelbee)
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Maddow makes waves. On Tuesday night, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow tweeted that she had President Trump’s tax returns—and then made the world wait for over an hour until her show’s airtime. The White House preempted her by releasing the document, which turned out to be two pages from a 2005 federal return. The tax form revealed that the president paid $38 million in federal taxes in 2005, a year when the former New York real estate developer brought in just under $153 million in income. According to Fortune‘s Stephen Gandel, that gave Trump a tax rate of just 25% in a year when the top rate he would have qualified for was 35%. While Maddow’s scoop turned out not to be groundbreaking, it’s been a boon to her already soaring viewership ratings. Last week, she beating out Fox News heavyweights Bill O’Reilly and Tucker Carlson among viewers aged 25 to 54, the most coveted demographic in TV news.
New York Times
• Teasing apart Trumpcare. Fortune’s Claire Zillman digs into what “Trumpcare,” the plan Congressional Republicans introduced last week to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, would mean for women. Among other things, the proposed plan would exclude Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program for one year (which the Congressional Budget Office has said would result in thousands of additional births) and restrict abortion by dictating that the tax credits at the heart of the bill cannot be spent on any health care plan that covers the pregnancy-ending procedure. In the more distant future, Trump may leave coverage of preventive services like birth control up to individual states, which means some women may go back to paying more for their insurance policies than their male counterparts—or be left out of coverage altogether.
• Controversy across the pond. The European Court of Justice has ruled that companies in the EU can ban “the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign,” effectively allowing European employers to ban headscarves in the workplace and complicating the lives of European Muslim women.
• Looking for answers. The headline on this month’s Atlantic cover story isn’t pulling any punches: “Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” The author reminds us that the current state of affairs is counterintuitive, as tech is theoretically populated with “progressive, hyper-educated people who talk a lot about making the world better. It’s also a young field, with none of the history of, say, law or medicine, where women were long denied spots in graduate schools intended for ‘breadwinning men.'” Ironically enough, tech’s newness might be the root of the problem: As a meritocratic field, success depends largely on innate ability. And most people believe—consciously or subconsciously—that genius is a male trait.
• No raves for Raimondo. Over the past 15 months, 15 companies have announced plans to locate or expand in Rhode Island, and 19 real estate projects, including hotels and apartments, have been approved. The New York Times calls the progress “striking” because the state has long been in a slump. Yet as of September, when the most recent poll was taken (and, granted, before much of the business influx) Gov. Gina Raimondo had an approval rating of just 38%. One political scientist believes Raimondo is facing “latent resentment” rooted in sexism in the culturally conservative state.
New York Times
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Willow Bay has been named dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She was previously the director of the school of journalism.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Femininity in uniform. In light of the Marine Corps’ recent nude photo sharing scandal, veteran Teresa Fazio explains what it means to be a female service member. She writes: “I was simultaneously ashamed of my plainness yet unwilling to change, lest I be viewed as anything other than highly competent…To be perceived as sexually desirable—especially in front of fellow Marines—felt like a sign of weakness. This double bind can especially trap military women, who walk a razor’s edge if they display femininity while working under a microscope of potential male attention.”
• Questioning the period queen. Racked reports that, behind the girl power messaging at Miki Agrawal’s trifecta of companies (period underwear company Thinx, incontinence brand Icon, and bidet attachment maker Tushy), there is “dysfunction and hypocrisy…employment policies that seem to fly in the face of the company’s women-first messaging, and an increasingly volatile work environment.” The publication’s sources say ten people have left Thinx since January, and last Thursday, Agrawal stepped down from her role as CEO of Thinx and Icon (she never held the title at Tushy).
• It’s on all of us. Two U.S. Naval Academy professors write about what many organizations involved in sexual harassment scandals miss: “When women are marginalized, disrespected, and harassed in an organization, focusing only on the guy at the top is a mistake.” Looking only at the top can cause those trying to change a culture “to miss a problem that is often far more serious and pervasive: everyday guys in the trenches who are missing in action when it comes to having the moral courage to stand up to such behavior.”
Harvard Business Review
• I’m still laughing. By now, you’re probably one of the 85 million people who’ve seen the viral video of professor Robert Kelly being hilariously interrupted by his children during a live BBC interview. The Wall Street Journal has an interview with the Kelly family, where the East Asian affairs expert explains what happened and how his family’s life has been turned upside down thanks to social media. “I made this minor mistake that turned my family into YouTube stars. It’s pretty ridiculous,” he says.
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