The next up in our esteemed group of thought leaders and pioneers for change (who we call TGI Game Changers) is Julia Elliott Brown, founder and CEO of Enter the Arena, a coaching and advisory business that helps high-growth female founders raise investment and scale.
Julia also hosts the podcast Fundraising Stories with Female Founders, sharing the highs and lows of this journey with tips for success. And has written a book RAISE: The Female Founder’s Guide to Securing Investment, which goes on sale in September.
As a female business owner, what does The Gender Index mean to you and why is it important?
Above all, I’m glad that somebody is looking at this issue. As a business owner, coaching and investment expert, and the voice of many female founders, I think you have to start the change process by measuring what’s happening.
That said, while measuring is brilliant, we need to see tangible outcomes. I want to see action on the back of those measurements. I’m hoping the industry sits up and takes notice. And individual organisations are held to account. The Gender Index is a great platform to inspire this type of action. It makes the issue much harder to ignore!
In your capacity as a business coach and investment expert, what are the biggest challenges women face?
It’s multifaceted, but one of the biggest issues is that the investment environment is traditionally very male dominated. With men comprising approximately 95 percent of venture partners and 85 percent of angel investors, it’s a difficult world!
So, one of the biggest challenges is the way women are perceived and the unconscious and conscious biases they face going through the process. Many male investors have made up their mind (even before meeting female founders) what their capabilities are. This needs to change.
These biases have been built into the decision-making process, and because they’re not being measured, they are not visible. That’s a big issue.
There are also issues for female founders when it comes to self-belief and worth. We don’t want the statistics to become a self-fulfilling prophecy; where female entrepreneurs see the low levels of investment in female-led companies and give up before they even start!
The system has been built by men for men. Often women are building businesses that men don’t relate to, targeting other women or families. And it doesn’t resonate. This is something we need to get past.
How can The Gender Index help with some of these challenges?
By highlighting the problem, and getting it on the news, government and investment community agenda!
We can now benchmark, set targets and measure progress. This is absolutely crucial in creating real change.
What opportunities can it help generate?
I think there’s a levelling-up opportunity, as the data shows which regions are struggling the most.
There are opportunities for organisations to embrace the issue, take note of the findings, and do their part to make a difference.
Because we can slice and dice the data in so many ways, we can tailor the message to all organisations, whether it’s public bodies or institutional investors, to help tell the story and affect change.
You have successfully secured funding; how have you found that process?
It was very tough. With my last entrepreneurial venture, Upper Street, where you could design your own women’s shoes, I was raising investment as a female founder with a very female-focused fashion tech business. I went through many challenges, made many mistakes and learned a huge amount along the way. I was successful, but it was painful and wild! That’s why I set up Enter the Arena, to provide coaching and support for high-growth female founders, and to help them raise investment and scale.
How can The Gender Index further support women ‘entering the arena’?
Keep focusing on the data! There’s such a big job to be done here. It’s so powerful. Don’t try and do too many things around the edges. Just keep pushing the agenda through the data findings. And encourage more measurements to be put in place.
What is your one piece of advice for female entrepreneurs?
Don’t let the statistics become a self-fulfilling prophecy! We’re never going to address the gender funding gap unless we go out there and give it our best shot.