The advertising and media world has come a long way in welcoming women into the industry. While throughout the industry gender representation has greatly improved, there are still significantly less women in more senior positions (something that tends to be true of all industries rather than just media and advertising).
This International Women’s Day, VideoWeek is focusing on female founders within the media and advertising industry. There is an underrepresentation of women among founders. Female founders act as role models to other women. When a woman successfully starts up a company in the industry, it is proof that it is a landscape in which women can flourish.
VideoWeek asked five women who have started companies in our industry: what can the media and advertising industry do to encourage more female founders?
Victoria Usher, CEO and founder, GingerMay
“Change is happening, but not fast enough.
To empower female founders, we must address the major gap in funding, showcase role models so women can ’see it to be it’, and smash outmoded patterns of thinking. While there is progress among VC firms such as Angel Academe, which focuses on investing in female founders, it’s critical to encourage more investors to fund women-led businesses. We also have to do more to recognise successful women, celebrate their achievements, and showcase role models for future leaders.
Alongside this, we must dismantle perceptions that women should be more ambitious and less risk-averse, when in reality key leadership skills include resilience, self-development, and innovation. Women score higher than men for all of these skills and more. To empower women to demonstrate their value and ensure imposter syndrome doesn’t dim their light, the media industry could develop charitable initiatives such as Future Female Founders, which GingerMay has established to mentor women, amplify their media profiles, and help drive business growth.”
Julia Linehan, founder, The Digital Voice PR Agency, and head of PR and impact, Bloom UK.
“The key word is actually in that question: encourage! There is no shortage now of investors and investment funds aimed at backing female founders. There are also exceptional community groups, like Bloom UK, TWIPN, She Loves Tech, DLL and WACL to lean on and look to for support and advice, as well as gain mentors from female founders who are showing the way. Within tech, just five percent of founders are female. Within media and advertising, that figure is higher but we need to move the dial considerably. This is absolutely achievable and will be done by strong female leaders showing how it is done! I am one of many female founders here who show that it is all there for the taking. Leap. Break the bias. Be bold and lean hard on communities within the industry who are ready to provide mountains of support, guidance, connections and above all, encouragement.”
Professor Karen Nelson-Field, CEO and founder of Amplified Intelligence
“Perhaps the first thing I would say is — listen! Listen in the boardroom. Listen in the press. Listen in the venture capital process. Shift the unconscious bias aside — and listen. In 2021 female founders secured two percent of venture capital in the US (Bloomberg, 2022). Ask why that is? Why are some business ideas brushed aside so easily, while others (potentially riskier) are selected. I am so fortunate to have wonderfully supportive investors, but the start of the journey didn’t look like that. The pitch process was adversarial and felt quite demeaning at times. Decision-makers need to start recognising adaptability and flexibility as strengths rather than weaknesses. They need to start engaging with why women are starting businesses at any age. Remove the barriers to money and watch the female founders flourish. They have done ten times more homework than anyone else to get there.”
Amy Williams, CEO and founder of Good-Loop
“We need more women in our industry to become angel investors. Getting more women onto the investment side of the equation will massively help to encourage more female founders. In the first few years, there’s so much uncertainty surrounding a business that it’s almost impossible for an investor to confidently back a business plan or a product roadmap. In those first few years, all an investor has to go on is their connection with the founder. It’s a gut feel, based on how much they trust the person in front of them.
It’s this gut feel that makes it so important to have female investors around the table. Because, ultimately, people trust people like them. At Good-Loop our cap table of investors is almost perfectly balanced by gender. This is thanks in part to the fantastic female-focused angel syndicate Angel Academe and also thanks to fantastic women from the ad industry, like Clare Hutchings, Cadi Jones, Devina Paul and Joanna Burton, who use a slice of their own success to back the next generation of female leaders.”
Jenny Biggam, founder, the7stars
“Looking at the media industry today, there are plenty of impressive female role models at virtually every network – women are smashing it.
Female founders though, are fewer and farther between. Access to funding is a discriminatory factor here in the UK – where just 15 percent of total equity investment goes to female-founded startups according to The Entrepreneurs Network (TEN).
Another factor is the gulf between women and men when it comes to caring for families. Potential female founders considering parenthood will be evaluating the sacrifice of employee benefits in terms of enhanced maternity packages and paid leave for childcare.
But this lack of support is playing a big part in the lack of female founders. Only through equitable investment and dedicated research and understanding can we begin to break down the barriers at home and at work and start to support our female talent in taking the next step.”