March is International Women’s Month and with it comes an emphasis on supporting women entrepreneurs. However, it is too often the case that marginalized groups of women remain underserved in these collective efforts.
What steps can we take to support marginalized entrepreneurs? First, let’s take a step back and clarify what we mean by marginalized. Often, people think of this term as it relates to numbers of people. Actually, what we’re referring to when we use terms like “marginalized,” “underrepresented,” or “minority,” is an inequality of power. With only 2% of capital going to female founders and merely a fraction of that percentage going to women of color, we are seeing a gross misalignment of those who hold the power and those who do not.
So, what can you do to better support marginalized female founders, promote equity, and contribute to a shift in these power dynamics?
- Provide Mentorship
In a study conducted by LinkedIn, 82% of women said that having a mentor is important to the trajectory of their career but 1 in 5 women have never had a mentor, and the numbers are higher for women of color specifically. There is a vicious cycle at play; marginalized groups do not have the same access to networking and mentorship opportunities as their cis/white/male counterparts, putting them at a disadvantage in the job market and in turn preventing them from the success that would allow them to be a mentor to the next generation. By going out of your way to become a mentor for an underrepresented founder, you are directly challenging that cycle.
Before committing to a mentorship, determine how much time you can reasonably commit to helping another founder. It is also important to seek out mentees that don’t look like you and sit at different metaphorical tables than you’re used to, especially if you are in a privileged position. Sharing the wisdom you’ve gained over the years through trial and error, and your own champions along the way, helps them avoid repeating the same mistakes, putting them on a smoother path to success.
- Invite Access to Your Network
Having access to a network and essential resources is critical to the success of a founder, and a connection of yours could be the one that takes a founder to the next level. Ask what types of resources they need, both for their business operations (e.g. an excellent graphic designer, a well-trusted project manager, etc.) and introductions to important resources (e.g. a VC who has invested in tech companies, someone experienced in pitch decks). With LinkedIn, it’s easier than ever to pinpoint where to make connections, so take the brief amount of time it takes to scour your network for connections that could be of service.
- Support Diverse Businesses
It isn’t just investments that make a difference; everyday purchases make a huge impact. Put intention behind your dollars by seeking out businesses owned by BIPOC, LGBTQ individuals, individuals with disabilities, immigrants, and other underrepresented founders. When looking for a specific product/service, spend the extra few minutes it takes to see if you can support a diverse founder in this purchase. Take the time to really think about who and what your money is going to support in your purchases big and small.
Think back to all the help and support you have received over the years in regards to your career, what and who made the biggest differences? Now, carry it forward!
In the words of one of our favorite role models, Tiffany Haddish, “[D]espite the terrible times we are living through, the one thing guaranteed to make life better is helping someone else.”
This post was written in collaboration with Sarah Bacerra – Inclusion Strategist, Learning Experience Designer, Certified High Performance Coach, and longtime friend of Stella Labs.
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