Sunday, January 17, 2021

Are the founders unfairly targeted?

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This is the web version ofThe Broadsheet, a daily newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Sign up to receive it for free in your inbox.

Hello, Broadsheet readers! The number of black women to raise $ 1 million has nearly tripled, New Zealand declares a climate emergency, and we wonder if founders are being treated fairly. Have a productive Thursday.

Today’s guest essay comes from Fortune lead writer Maria Aspan:

-The foundresses under fire. The wing. A way. Outdoor voice. Reformation. Refinery29.

In the past 18 months, one of the founders of high-profile startups left her company or was forced to leave. These departures were complicated, surrounded by complaints from employees and press coverage about each woman’s management style or the internal culture of her company, as you know if you’ve read the Broadsheet. And they have provided more and more evidence to many entrepreneurs, investors and executives in Silicon Valley that founders are held to an incredibly high standard, as I report in a new feature for Fortunelast issue of:

“There are very few female leaders who reach the level where they get press and attention, and at some point they all disappear,” says Sara Mauskopf, co-founder and CEO of Winnie, a custodial platform at children based in San Francisco. raised $ 15.5 million. Add to that a slew of other founders who stay at the top of their business but have come under scrutiny in their management styles and cultures – including the CEOs of beauty startup Glossier, retailer Rent. the Runway, the Bumble dating app and the lingerie company ThirdLove – and it’s hard not to ask yourself, as Mauskopf does, “What’s going on? And why does this only happen to women? “

Are these women leaders really being unfairly targeted – by employees who believe in their company’s mission, by the journalists who cover them, and by the venture capitalists who hardly invest in them? Most (but not all!) Of the 25 start-up founders, investors, executives, and employees I interviewed for this story agreed that yes, it is massively harder to be a female founder.

But it’s also more complicated than that. The very few women who get venture capital support for their startups tend to be privileged white or Asian women who start consumer businesses, who often lean on a feminist or social mission when they personally market their products. companies. This can publicly tie founders to failures in their business, especially if they promise black and brown employees an inclusive feminist workplace, and then fail.

There’s also the question of who really has the power to enforce the gender double standard – and whether the answer is to be more lenient with founders or to keep men at a higher level, as I explore. more in another story for Fortune today. When a founder is criticized, her investors and especially her board of directors are the ones with the ultimate power to protect her, or not. And this year, as a female founder after the founder resigned amid scrutiny, several male founders and CEOs have survived. similar employee complaints and negative press reports.

As Pam Kostka, CEO of All Raise, told me, “Boards have a responsibility and a responsibility here. There is just a different standard. When something does happen, it looks like they’ll give a man more proof and more time.

Venture capitalist Charlie O’Donnell, one of The Wing’s early investors, accepted that startup boards generally don’t serve their founders well. As he puts it: When a leadership issue is advanced enough that “the board should save this CEO?” – well, where was the board to help prepare the ceo?

Read it whole story here.

Maria Aspan |
maria.aspan@fortune.com
@mariaaspan

Today’s Broadsheet was organized by Emma Hinchliffe.



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