“If startup success is mainly about the team, diversity should be there right from start.”
Some of Portugal's top women investors talk gender diversity and how to improve women's participation in startups
Around 20, in both Portuguese and international companies.How many of those have had a woman in the founding team?None. Only two women-led projects were presented: one was not a fit for our portfolio, and the other, the entrepreneur gave up on the project.
What can be done to improve participation of women in the entrepreneurial sector in Portugal?There is an underlying bias against women that has been thoroughly studied. How do we address this bias? Making sure that investors are aware of it, and have the willingness to fight it, starting with some smaller changes like having more women on their investment team.
Secondly, there is a cultural perception, a primal thought linked to physical performance, that women are weaker and that, under difficult circumstances, they will fail, so it is a safer bet to invest in men-led organisations.We need to increase the number and visibility of female role models. This problem affects women in executive roles, as well as in computer sciences and overall, in STEM.
Women mentorship programs, which already exist in the country, need to be more widespread and high school and college programs should be implemented (‘women entrepreneurship classes’) and perhaps even stronger state incentives should be created for women-led organisations.
Finally, gender inequality is a problem, but racial inequality is even a greater one. How many startups with non-white founders do we see across Europe? How many corporate executives? Again, the bias is there. As a society, we need to leave behind the underlying prejudice and embrace diversity.
Marta Palmeiro“We need to give more visibility to female founders”Marta Palmeiro is a Lisbon-based investor and founder with a background in investment banking. Marta is a general partner at, and specialises in fintech investments. Last year she founded StudentFinance, a startup which seeks to remove financial barriers to higher education.
Recent investmentsI’ve made seven investments in the last five years.How many of those have had a woman in the founding team?One.What can be done to improve participation of women in the entrepreneurial sector in Portugal?First we need to give more visibility to female founders and build more room for networking and sharing of experiences. It’s important to be open and realistic about the commitment that goes into building a company but show that entrepreneurship and family are compatible.
Universities also play an important role in building more awareness around entrepreneurship as a career path and exposing students to a diverse network. I am frequently in contact with young women interested in starting a career in banking that had never thought of venture capital or entrepreneurship as an alternative.
We also need more women at the investment table. This simultaneously brings a more diverse perspective into the investment decisions and makes female founders feel more supported. Read more: Women 2.0 »
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