AWS Startups Blog

What myths are holding female founders back?

Guest post by Nadia Kelly, founder of Burlington and VC advisor

Whether its old boys’ clubs, glass ceilings or imposter syndrome, there are many reasons why women are prevented from fulfilling their business ambitions.

In the UK, men are twice as likely to identify as entrepreneurs than women. Between 2013 and 2016, 10.4 percent of working-age British men identified as entrepreneurs, compared to 5.5 percent of women, according to a study from Aston University, based on data from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. The gender gap is closing, however. According to the study, the proportion of working-age British women setting up their own business rose by 45 percent over the same period, compared to 27 percent of working-age men.

As countless successful female entrepreneurs have proven over the years, so-called truths about the startup world are easily exploded. Here, some female VCs dispel the various myths that prevent female founders from pursuing their visions.

Myth 1: You need a perfect grasp of numbers

There’s a prevailing notion that female founders must prove how well they know their numbers, says Tiffany Young, associate, Pentech Ventures. “I’ve witnessed plenty of women get bogged down in the minutiae of their numbers when instead they should be presenting their vision and getting investors to buy into their story.”

Myth 2: You have to trample on other women

“It’s a myth that in order to get ahead as a female entrepreneur you have to be to be ruthless, otherwise people take advantage of you or you’re seen as weak,” says Tara Reeves, partner at LocalGlobe. This simply isn’t true. “It’s possible to lead a business while creating a friendly, positive culture in which your team feels listened too—and this will pay dividends in the long run,” she says.

Myth 3: Women struggle to reach VCs   

While it’s true that female VCs are underrepresented, the numbers have grown in Europe, says Megumi Ikeda, managing director, Hearst Ventures. And the good news is investors are always looking to meet great female founders.

“Don’t let impostor syndrome prevent you from reaching out to them and asking for advice. If you’re passionate, driven and have a strong vision, they’ll definitely want to meet with you,” she says.

Myth 4: Mentors are optional

Some people believe that having a mentor is a “nice to have” rather than an essential part of professional development as an entrepreneur, says Laura Connell, principal at Balderton Capital. But this is a myth. “Research has repeatedly shown that having a mentor is a critical professional asset for women and a transformative part of your arsenal as an entrepreneur,” she says.

Myth 5: Women don’t support other women

Many women founders worry they don’t have a support or mentor network like men do, explains Ophelia Brown, founder of Blossom Capital. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have many strong female role models in my life—both on the male-dominated trading floor of Goldman Sachs and in venture capital. The amount of time women are committing to mentoring and networking initiatives is evidence of the importance we place on giving other women a helping hand,” she says.

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Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung currently works in startup content at AWS and was previously the head of content at Index Ventures. Prior to joining the corporate world, Michelle was a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, the founding Business Editor at the Huffington Post, a correspondent for The Boston Globe, a columnist for Publisher’s Weekly and a writer at Entertainment Weekly.