Seema’s thoughts on International Women’s Day…
“For me, it’s all about celebrating women’s achievements in all spheres – social, political, cultural and economic. Everything. It’s also a personal opportunity for me to think about the women I admire so much in my life. I’m so lucky to have strong, powerful, resilient women around me. And, of course, it’s so important to use IWD to remind ourselves how far we still need to go, to make opportunities even more open and equal for the next generations of women – for our daughters. So they can achieve their full potential.”
“Of course, men can do just as much as women – and they should! There’s been so much progress towards gender equality made in the last decade, but there’s no doubt COVID-19 threatens to reverse that important progress, as the negative impacts of the pandemic are disproportionately being felt by women.”
“If we continue at the current rate of progress made by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) over the last nine years, it would take 112 years to close the gender pay gap. How depressing is that!”
“So it’s up to all of us – whatever our gender – to challenge inequalities and gender biases towards women and work. We all have a role to play.”
When asked what advice would you give women struggling in a male-dominated industry? Seema replied: “I don’t think that’s the right question. We need to flip it, and ask: ‘What can male-dominated industries do to attract more women?’ This is critical, given that:
- Female-run startups generate 78c in revenue for every dollar of investment raised — as opposed to male-run startups, which generate 31c.
- Women-led teams deliver a 35% higher return on investment than all-male teams.
- Companies with female founders perform 63% better than those with all-male founders.”
“There’s no escaping those stats! It’s clear from the data that diverse founders, teams and team leaders are not just happier, but also deliver better results and returns. The companies that get this will thrive. Those that don’t will fall by the wayside. It’s that simple.”
“We still have lots to do. VC money needs to become much more accessible to women, to help female-driven startups grow. And we need more female role models and leaders in tech generally. We need more girls and young women to pursue STEM subjects as a route into tech, and that depends on raising the profile of women in the industry, to inspire those new generations.”
“There are some really clear, urgent goals:
- Make more money available to female founders.
- Promote women, and overcome the ‘broken-rung effect’. Because there are disproportionately few women in managerial roles, fewer women get promoted into executive roles. We need to break that cycle.
- We need more women at managerial levels, which will inevitably lead to more women in C-suite roles – making decisions on who to fund, partnerships, etc.”
“It can look like a mountain to climb, but I’m optimistic. Women control over 30% of the world’s wealth – and that’s growing. We still make most family financial decisions. But we’re massively underserved – which represents a huge opportunity.”
“Lastly, I’d say to all the women out there – make yourselves visible! Speak at events, meet people. Build supportive, inspiring networks, find mentors and sponsors. Find the thing you’re really good at, know that you’re enough – and then go for it!”
Seema’s Top 10 Pieces of Advice for Female Entrepreneurs…
1. “There are easier ways to make money. If that’s what you want, try something else! But if your idea or mission has a real purpose, here’s the rest of my top ten:”
2. “Don’t kid yourself: this is bloody hard work. Long hours, cash-flow stress, feeling isolated, the effects on your relationships and mental health. It’s tough.”
3. “It’s not for everyone. You have to decide for yourself if it’s right for you — with your eyes open. And you need a wide range of skills. Multi-tasking, leadership, decisiveness, methodical patience, and an ability to pivot when needed. Especially in tech, where things happen so fast. You need to be a bit of a risk-taker, ready to just go for it and try stuff.”
4. “You have to be a natural optimist. There will be plenty of obstacles, and plenty of people telling you it won’t work. Your sense of purpose really helps here: you have to believe!”
5. “Make as many connections as you can. Build a network of relationships. They’ll support your business as it grows.”
6. “Never underestimate how much support you can get if you reach out. Talk to other founders, sponsors, mentors. People are incredibly generous – believe me, I know!”
7. “You’ll have to do a bit of everything, which means learning fast and getting stuck in. Fundraising, cap tables, financials, operations, product — be ready to get into it all. There’s always more to be done.”
8. “Don’t try to be something you’re not. You’re enough as you are. Just be true to yourself, and believe in yourself. You can do it.”
9. “This is a massively rewarding path — as long as you have the right support from your team, family, friends, other founders and investors.”
10. “And this is a repeat, but worth repeating: this is incredibly hard work, and not right for everyone. Someone once told me: ‘If you want to work the longest hours and be the lowest-paid — be a founder!’ But for the right sort of character, there’s nothing quite like it.”