You’ve heard this statistic before: On average, women make 78 cents for every dollar that a man earns.

You’ve also heard that women represent half of the U.S. workforce and control 80 percent of the nation’s purchasing power, but make up less than five percent of venture capitalists, according to U.S. Small Business Administration’s Maria Contreras-Sweet.

Would it surprise you that only 7 percent of venture capital funding goes to female founders?

Or how about that some studies have shown that investors prefer entrepreneurial ventures pitched by attractive men? This finding from a Harvard Business School study conducted in 2014 by researchers from the Harvard Business School, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and MIT Sloan School tested both female and male participants using the same exact pitch script.

The study included test cases that resulted in higher rankings for males on how “persuasive,” “fact-based” and how “logical” their pitches sounded. Physical attractiveness gave a leg up for the male entrepreneurs’ likelihood of winning the pitch competition, but curiously didn’t play into the decision-making process when it came to female entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, only 32 percent of people said they’d fund the woman, compared to 68 percent who said they would fund the man.

Catalysts for meaningful change

Here’s some good news in our state of North Carolina to fight the opportunity gap. Cindy Whitehead, founder and CEO, The Pink Ceiling, called “a tireless force of nature” by Fortune, launched her company in early 2016. The Pink Ceiling offers strategic consulting and seed investing for women-led or women-focused entrepreneurial businesses—they propel breakthroughs. Her venture is designed to work in partnership with companies that serve up innovative solutions for challenges affecting entrepreneurs in all lifecycles of their businesses. Whitehead is committed to empower her clients with the resources and stellar guidance they need to be informed—and to surpass all perceived expectations. Her motivating force is driven by this passion:  “…to identify real solutions that can become catalysts for meaningful change for women.

Whitehead is equally passionate about equal pay, and her most recent initiative is a new partnership with Crowdfunder, an equity crowdfunding platform along with The Pinkubator, her membership service and co-working space that aids in leading, building and growing her clients’ businesses. Their combined mission is to provide support and streamline processes by various methods: from capital-raising to a robust mentorship program, and plentiful networking opportunities. Whitehead is fervent that “closing the gender-wage gap is an unequivocally important social and economic justice issue that requires action by women and men alike.

Women helping other women to thrive

The Cape Fear region is a rapidly expanding technology sector, and tekMountain has generously provided space, snacks and support for over two years to the group Cape Fear Women in Tech to help foster a burgeoning community focused on professional development for women in technology in the area. Former CastleBranch employees Audrey Speicher and Emilyanne Atkinson founded CFWIT in the summer of 2015 with the sole mission to advance women in technology. CFWIT hosts networking events, technical workshops, and organizes panels and speakers to inspire more women to choose and thrive in sustainable careers in technology. From coders to database admins, designers to entrepreneurs, CFWIT’s membership is varied and diverse. According to their website, they are broad in their definition of a “tech” career. “All women who are currently working in technical professions or looking to do so are welcome.

InnovateHER addresses the opportunity gap—head-on

Launched by the U.S. Small Business Association in 2015, InnovateHER is a cross-cutting prize competition for all entrepreneurs to unearth innovative products and services that help impact and empower the lives of women and families.  More than 248 organizations hosted local events in 2016 with over 3,000 entrepreneurs competing. The 2017 challenge is still under way, with pitch competitions wrapping up across the nation. In mid-2017 finalists will travel to Washington, DC, for the final rounds and to compete for up to $70,000 in prize money.

Here in Wilmington, NC, The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosted the regional InnovateHER competition on May 18 of this year.  According to local public radio WHQR, the Wilmington winner is Phyllis Charnoff. Her Very-Veggie pitch is to launch a vegan-only fast-food chain of restaurants. This summer, she’ll work with CIE staff on her business plan, where she hopes to be chosen for the national finals this summer.

“The return of SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge presents an exciting opportunity for some of our nation’s foremost entrepreneurs and innovators,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “I decided to launch this annual competition two years ago so that we could begin to address that opportunity gap, because when women have an equal role in the marketplace and are able to chart their own paths, our nation as a whole is stronger and more globally competitive.”

Opportunity to impact the world by empowering lives

Save the date: June 27, 5:30-7pm for Cape Fear Women in Tech and tekMountain’s next event, If She Can Do it, So Can I, a talk which showcases tech entrepreneur and superstar Espree Devora, “the girl who gets it done” from the west coast. The event is sure to be inspiring, as Espree will be spreading the amazing stories of hope and tenacity that she collects from female tech entrepreneurs as well as her own life’s journey. Register here at Eventbrite.

We at tekMountain are dedicated to contributing to the dynamic conversation serving the wider entrepreneurial community. We are helping to cultivate a culture of collaboration, dialogue, and resource-sharing. United, we have the power to truly change the world by connecting with other entrepreneurs and innovators across the globe. We invite you to join us on our website, Twitter and LinkedIn.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesBill DiNomeZach Cioffi and Mary Brannock with lead writer Beth Roddy.

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