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Women In Comms

WiCipedia: Founders battle anti-racism, fight for equal-opportunity funding

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Traditional funding enters the 21st century; unpaid labor at work; Pinterest is not the good guy of social media; and more.

  • In the wake of job insecurity and social unrest, more attention is being paid to Black founders and the lack of funding and credit they have been given by investors in the past. Times are a-changin' though, and it may finally be the Black founders' time in the sun. In response, a "Guide to Investing in Black Founders" has been released by the Transparent Collective, a group that works on helping minority founders get a seat at the funding table. The guide is not for those with short attention spans – it's exhaustive and digs in deep. It also greatly emphasizes the differences between Black founders and everyone else, and what benefits different opinions and backgrounds can bring. The authors also argue that there's no way we can have racial equality without Black founders being granted the same opportunities and funding as their White counterparts, and furthermore, VCs are also missing out financially by completely overlooking a huge market. "If you're not investing Black, you will miss a myriad of unicorn opportunities that will have a lasting effect on culture in a different way than many companies today." (See WiCipedia: A post-pandemic restructuring opportunity for WiT.)

    It's about time VCs opened the safe to minority founders
    (Source: Pixabay)
    (Source: Pixabay)

  • However, promoting and investing in Black founders shouldn't solely be done because it's the thing to do these days. An article in Entrepreneur by Mary Spio, a VR trailblazer and founder of CEEK VR, states that entrepreneurs should be treated like entrepreneurs, and not color coded for social impact headlines. Spio explains that instead of investors funding Black founders just because they're Black, VCs should instead locate an underserved market and then trace that back to potential founders who may be able to serve the communities at hand, who are most likely going to be minorities. She also says that there's no such thing as a "pipeline "issue," though there is a rampant visibility issue, especially at the top tech companies: "When you look at a company like Facebook, and you don't see one single Black face on their board or their leadership retreat they're posting pictures of, you're not going to want to go there. It's not a pipeline problem. It's just a blockage at the entrance keeping minorities from coming in." (See WiCipedia: How companies can align values with profits.)

  • That doesn't mean that VC funding shouldn't be set aside specifically for minority-led companies though. The Lightship Capital Fund is a new venture from Lightship Capital and SecondMuse, and is slated to become the biggest fund for minority founders in the Midwest, explains American Inno. With a focus on BIPOC, LGBTQ and disabled founders, the fund is currently boasting $50 million to spread over five categories: artificial intelligence, consumer packaged goods, sustainability, e-commerce and healthcare. SecondMuse Founder and Co-CEO Todd Khozein said, "The Lightship Capital Fund has the potential to be one of the greatest economic opportunities of this generation, as systemic racism has led to the majority of VC investment being allocated to white male founders. By investing in remarkable underrepresented founders in the Midwest, where the least VC competition exists and the best exit outcomes are yielded, Lightship Capital has identified the formula for a highly impactful, highly profitable venture fund." (See WiCipedia: Black female founders take on VC discrimination.)

  • We've heard of women doing more unpaid labor around the home, but what about in the office? A Medium article explained that many female founders also take on the roles of unpaid brand ambassadors, CMOs and company therapists, all without any recognition. While you may be thinking, "Well, yeah, when you start a company it's gonna be your life 24/7," more transparency into personal lives seems to be expected of female than male founders. As The Helm, an online guide to all things female founders, put it: "What's more, female founders are often required to serve not only as CEO, but as influencer and ambassador for their brand as well, offering up a version of their personal lives to scrutiny in ways that men are not expected to." (See WiCipedia: Why Women Leave Tech, Gen Z Wants to Disconnect & Aviation Equality.)

  • Pinterest tends to stay out of the inequality hotseat, but its era of peace and quiet may be coming to an end. The Washington Post reports that the "kinder, gentler social media juggernaut," which has more than 70% female users (yet only 4% Black employees and contractors), also has claims of racial discrimination brewing over. Two former employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, both left the company in May and are now coming forward about their experiences with five other former employees – and an intent to sue if the issues can't be resolved internally. Despite unconscious bias training from an outside organization and a commitment to increasing diversity at the company several years ago, the former employees stated they were discriminated against because of their race, which led them to earn less in stock options, do the same work as their manager for lower pay, experience harassment and threats online and be humiliated in company meetings. The company has said that it is looking into the claims with outside counsel. (See WiCipedia: How tech can evolve beyond performative activism.)

    — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading. Follow us on Twitter @LR_WiC and contact Eryn directly at [email protected].

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