I attended the NDRC’s Launchpad Demo Day last week and was impressed by what I saw and heard.
The event unfolded in the classic way with founders taking the stage and walking through their use cases and business models. There were women founders, international founders, some older, some younger. A diverse bunch, at least on the surface of it.
It was only after a couple of pitches that I started to feel uncomfortable. Women were almost invisible in these companies - as employees, as board advisors or as customer stories. Even the female founders who took the stage told male oriented stories and I’m guessing they didn’t think twice about it.
I had a similar experience at a student pitch event at the Smurfit School recently. The business solutions being proposed were for men, the home solutions for women. I’m not known for being a feminist but this stuff makes me want to scream.
And, we’re all guilty. When I first put my advisory board together, it included six men and only one woman. It took me at least a week or two to realize I was off track.
So startup founders, here’s the rub: even if you’re not an advocate for women’s rights your business will not thrive without women in key positions, women as key customers and women as key advisors. And according to the mountains of startup research out there, it’s as simple as that.