It’s 2017. Only 17 percent of startups have a female founder. Less than 3 percent of funding goes to women. Less than 1 percent (really, 0.2 percent) of that goes to women of color… even though funding teams that include women outperform their all-male peers by 63 percent. Yikes. Women-owned businesses are thriving despite the lack of funding and have increased by 45 percent between 2007 and 2016. More than that, McKinsey predicted that 4 trillion dollars in additional GDP will be unlocked by 2025 if we invest 475 billion in women. It just makes sense, so why isn’t it happening?

on October 19th, I attended the Untold Stories event hosted by the Portland Business Journal and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. I walked into Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, excited to learn from the panelists. I learned from their impassioned panel about starting businesses. Their grace, patience, and frankness around the institutional obstacles inspired me.

The Differences Between Male and Female Business Owners

Businesses started by women are much more likely to have a social responsibility factor, a focus on the quality of life for their employees, and a connection to the quality of their work. The disparity in social capital is also important. Women, especially women of color, are less likely to be connected to people who can help fund or advise them on owning businesses. Women in America weren’t even able to procure a loan without a male cosigner until 1974. Generational wealth is also a hindrance, especially for people of color, as they are less likely to have family money to assist with upfront costs. The potential to become an entrepreneur is being hindered from the start, women aren’t as likely to have been told they could be entrepreneurs.

What We Learned

Making mistakes is harder as a woman in business and the panel reflected on the business fumbles that impact them. The frankness that Summers-McGe, Su Embree, president of DHM Research; Mara Zepeda, co-founder of Switchboard; Anita Ramachandran, global director of MicroMentor at Mercy Corps; and Paige Hendrix Buckner, founder and CEO of Client Joy brought to the discussion was powerful, and we’re grateful for the time and energy they gave us that morning. Putting mistakes and tough times in perspective helps others remember that they don’t have to be perfect to be successful. I was impressed with the helpful and actionable tips from the event. Women benefit from not pressuring themselves to conform to the way business was done in the past. Individuals from underrepresented groups need to establish themselves as game-changers in the industry.

Another tip? Negotiating is a muscle that you must use to get stronger. I love that one. Anita told a powerful story about performance reviews and the way women are often more holistic. She explained that she would rather bring a village with her to her goal, even if it takes longer. Cheers to that.

What’s Next

We’ll be continuing to watch rising stars, and focusing our efforts on uplifting companies that reflect these values in the future as well. Want to work together? Give us a holler. We’d love to learn more about you and your vision.