Female Founders in Venture Capital and Private Equity

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Female founders used to be few and far between. That is evolving, but there is still work to do. 

The proportion of female-founded companies has doubled over ten years. In 2009, 9.5% of startups had at least one female founder, but by 2014, that figure had doubled to 18%. Additionally, in 2021, 20% of startups that have raised $5 billion in venture capital funding globally have at least one female founder.

Female-founded startups

The growth in female-founded startups suggests that efforts to improve women’s representation in entrepreneurship are starting to pay off. Pitchbook found that the second quarter of 2021 was particularly lucrative for businesses with one or more female founders. 875 deals were made with a total value of $14 billion. However, it is a different story for female only enterprises. In the same period, the total deal value was seven times less for businesses with all-female founders, standing at just under $2 billion. Female-founded startups share of venture capital remains small compared to mixed-gender teams.

Women in Private Equity

Private equity companies are still working to break the glass ceiling preventing women from rising through the ranks to senior roles. However, the percentage of female board seats at private equity firms has been growing over the last few years, but still remain low. Overall, 9.9% of senior roles at private equity firms are held by women.

To promote gender diversity in the industry, a range of events have been established. Founded in 2014, the Women in Private Equity Forum brings together institutional investors, fund managers, and others in the industry to discuss diversity and keep it at the top of the agenda. Over the last few years, the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) has hosted regular discussions about gender diversity in the industry. These events allow individuals to network and build business connections. Most importantly, attendees explore how the industry can overcome gender disparity in both funding and recruitment.

Female Founder

Onefourzero and Gender Diversity

Since our inception in 2015, a key priority of onefourzero has been diversity and inclusion. As a company, one of our core values is that everyone is treated with respect and is listened to. We strongly believe that regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, disability, and religion, everyone deserves to be heard. You can learn more about our culture of inclusion here.

Onefourzero’s CEO, Fleur Hicks, represents a rare occurrence: a female CEO in the finance and technology sectors. Fleur joined onefourzero in the autumn of 2015 and was instrumental in growing the company from a two-man consultancy to an industry-leading tech-enabled commercial consulting firm. Since Fleur became CEO of onefourzero in 2020, she has overseen the appointment of Deepa Shah as Chief Financial Officer, increasing the number of women in the leadership team. 

Fleur is also involved in a range of organisations that are working to encourage more women to enter finance and corporate consulting, such as Level 20. The organisation hosts events, training and mentorship, and Fleur has been a member for the last three years. The mentoring element of Level 20 has been invaluable to thousands of women in male-dominated industries. Level 20’s goal is to increase the number of women in the sector. As a result, the organisation has set a target for 20% of senior roles to be held by women.

About her role as CEO of onefourzero, Fleur said: “Being a female CEO in finance and technology should mean the same thing as being a male CEO in the industry. Yet sadly, it is still a differentiator. If I can represent opportunity, aspiration even, and encourage other girls, teens and women to pursue careers in these sectors, that is brilliant. Gender and perceptions of gender strength should not be a barrier to entry. Diverse contribution matters and nothing can stop you from getting to the top (not even two babies). You can do it”.