A recent article at Feministing.com highlights a study showing that female entrepreneurs pitching an idea are less successful with investors than men pitching the same idea.
Maya Dusenbery says:
“You’d think folks in the venture capitalist and entrepreneurial communities–who presumably have far more faith in the invisible hand’s ability to identify and invest in the best ideas than an anti-capitalist like me does–would be seriously concerned by research like this that suggests gender bias is throwing such a major wrench in their visions of a perfect capitalist meritocracy. I look forward to seeing the innovative solutions they’re working on to address this.”
As an advocate of free-market capitalism, here are the solutions I suggest:
1. Advocate for libertarian feminism, combining the sound principles of free market philosophy with a mission to culturally construct a fully human femininity, and to correct for distortions of sexual identity against merit. (Similarly, advocate for libertarian social justice generally, correcting for distortions of all sexual identities and racial identities)
2. Create market corrections such as private “affirmative action.” If it becomes clear that value is being left on the table by not investing in female entrepreneurs, that becomes an opportunity for certain investors to make a profit by focusing exclusively on female entrepreneurs.
3. Make investors and venture capitalists aware of their potential biases with articles such as this one in Feministing. Thank you, Maya! — Truly, you and articles like these are part of the solution. Investors might correct for a certain amount of discrimination just by being more conscientious. CEOs might also integrate correction for this problem into their business’ mission statement, employee training, and other forums. It could be as simple as a reminder: “Be aware of sex discrimination. Don’t miss out on a great idea!”
4. Private civic institutions, “watch dog” groups, or any kind of voluntary groups for women entrepreneurs to join together and exchange information about which investors are promising and which ones show discriminatory behavior toward women. Develop lists of criteria; let journalists name good guys and bad guys. Much like the LGBT community identifies businesses which are friendly to their community as customers and employees.
(One of my favorites is Capitalist Chicks.)
Finally, this isn’t a solution, but an attempt to turn the question on its head: consider that if there is a cultural distortion about masculinity and authority, how much worse off female entrepreneurs would be in an economy controlled by political power, where authority is the “coin of the realm” instead of the dollar.
For more commentary on this issue, see my article Feminism and the Future.