Entrepreneurs create the future. And women entrepreneurs are underfunded. This is also true of entrepreneurs of color. So who is creating the future? Certain demographics of people have more than their fair share of influence, and the results speak for themselves.
Women have the power to fix this situation. In this excerpt from Impact With Wings: Stories to Inspire and Mobilize Women Investors and Entrepreneurs, I write that women have a source of power they are not taking full advantage of – their money. When an angel investor funds a company, she determines which products and services have a chance to make it to the marketplace. Not only that, but she is also influencing which world problems get solved, and which business cultures and practices are carried forward. New companies are creating the future in many ways. Angel investors choose which startup companies go to the next level. Now that’s impact!
Watch for the launch of Impact With Wings on May 1. And if you believe in our vision, support our crowdfunding campaign.
Excerpt from Impact With Wings, Chapter Two, “Setting the Stage and Unpacking the Trends,” by Suzanne Andrews.
Women Ante Up
Historically, women have held less social and economic power than men. We see men all around us building large corporations and reaping the profits. We see male venture capitalists, investment bankers, stockbrokers, fund managers, and even prominent male philanthropists. It seems that men control all the money.
But is this really true? In fact, the amount of wealth that women control, as well as the rate at which their wealth is increasing, is reaching extraordinary levels. According to Oppenheimer’s 2006 study “Women and Investing,” more than half of the investment assets in the United States were already controlled by women by that time. Ninety-five percent of women are directly involved in their household’s financial decision making and twenty-five percent are the primary decision-makers. Note that sixty percent of high net-worth women have earned their own fortunes. In addition to developing their own successful careers, women tend to outlive men, and inherit their husband’s and family’s fortunes. These facts lead many experts in the financial planning industry to predict that women will control two-thirds of the wealth in the United States by 2030. While the percentages are smaller globally, women were estimated to control twenty-seven percent of the world’s wealth in 2009, which is enough to create significant influence in their communities and around the world.
Yet, women don’t wield their wealth in the same way men do. We keep quiet about our money, not wanting others to feel uncomfortable. Often, when we make large philanthropic gifts, we do so anonymously. Perhaps our psychology leads us to save our money and take fewer risks with it. I spoke about this with Jackie Gutierrez, Founder and CEO of Cloud & Clover, an online fashion retailer committed to using business for positive social change. She recalled that the businesswomen in her family would use the money they earned to support their families, often more reliably than the men. Perhaps there is a psychology of motherhood, even for those of us who are not mothers. We need to save our money to make sure that our families will be safe. Maybe we feel comfortable taking risks only after the children are cared for.
There are good reasons why women handle their money differently than men do. Pressuring women to behave financially more like men is not a solution. We measure the tradeoffs of risk differently. Our families and our communities benefit tremendously from our responsible and thrifty management of resources. Yet, it may also be true that we are not taking hold of the power that financial resources afford us.
What would happen if women began using our significant financial resources more effectively to create the kind of world where all people share the opportunity to pursue dreams and the potential to succeed? Women can engage in thoughtful and curious conversations and learn from each other about our ingrained belief systems, which drive our behaviors relating to money and risk. Together, we can look deeply at our financial practices and discern which are positive and which are habits that need to be challenged.
There is some evidence that we are already doing this. As women step up to offer their financial resources, they are doing so by funding projects that are important to them. In the realm of philanthropy, women are joining together in groups to evaluate charitable organizations and decide together how to best leverage their donations. The Women Donor’s Network is an example of a large national group that has member-led giving circles as well as numerous strategic initiatives to support women in maximizing the impact of their collective giving. In addition, there is the Women’s Funding Network, the largest philanthropic network in the world devoted to women and girls with more than 120 women’s funds and foundations engaged.
As angel investors, too, we can put our money where our values are, as well as make a financial return. The number of women-focused angel groups is growing, reflecting the increasing number of women interested in leveraging their resources this way. The first all-women angel group in the United States, Seraph Capital Forum, was founded in Seattle in 1998 by Susan Preston, one of the contributors to this book. Golden Seeds, one of the best-known women-focused early-stage investor organizations, started in 2005. We now have groups such as Astia Angels, 37 Angels, and Broadway Angels, to name just a few.
Broadway Angels is an interesting case. As an invitation-only angel group made up of world-class women investors and business executives, their investment thesis does not specify what gender entrepreneurs they invest in. They follow the best opportunities they can find in their massive deal flow. However, a quick scan of their website shows that half of their entrepreneurs are women. This example, and many others, suggests that when women bring their money to the table, opportunities for women entrepreneurs (and perhaps for entrepreneurs from other underrepresented groups) increase.
As Geri Stengel said to me in an email, “Women need to ante up.”
 Ettinger, Heather R and O’Connor, Eileen M., Women of Wealth Survey (2011) Family Wealth Advisors Council. available at: http://hemingtonwm.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/FWAC_WomenOfWealth.pdf
 Prudential Research Study, “Financial Experience and Behaviors Among Women” (2010-2011), available at http://www.prudential.com/media/managed/Womens_Study_Final.pdf
 Stengel, Geri, “11 Reasons 2014 Will Be A Breakout Year For Women Entrepreneurs,” Forbes (Jan. 8, 2014) available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/geristengel/2014/01/08/11-reasons-2014-will-be-a-break-out-year-for-women-entrepreneurs/
 Ettinger, Heather R and O’Connor, Eileen M., Ibid.