Wanted: Women Angels

The May meeting of the New Hampshire High Tech Council’s TechWomen Power Breakfast featured five talented women sharing their insights on “angel investing.” This is the first of three installments summarizing a wealth of information that is important to many entrepreneurs: gaining investment resources.

Angel investors are accredited private individuals, or an organized group of them, who invest in businesses on their own behalf, as opposed to other types of investors who invest on behalf of others and are paid to do so. Investors are important to a successful start-up ecosystem and a growing economy because business ventures need access to capital at every stage of their growth and development.

The issue that brought these women together to speak before our Power Breakfast audience was the ongoing disparity between the number of women and men involved in angel investing. According to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Center for Venture Research (a research facility cited frequently during the breakfast event), in 2015 in the United States, only about 25% of angel investors were women. Further, women-owned ventures accounted for only about 29% of the entrepreneurs who were seeking angel capital, and only about 14% of these women received an angel investment in 2015, representing, in effect, less economic opportunity for women. The women on the breakfast panel stated the percentages for the State of New Hampshire were even lower. A similar scenario exists for racial minorities.

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The panel was facilitated by Liz Gray of the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority, who is the director of entrepreneurship for the Live Free and Start initiative, launched in June 2014, working to make New Hampshire a great place for innovation-based businesses to start, connect, and succeed. The initiative is not a source of investment funds but its goal is to make access to capital easier for New Hampshire companies.

Liz stated that women are presently receiving less than 6% of angel group funding. Part of the problem is the lack of diversity within venture capital groups as only 4% of the decision-makers are women. To maintain a strong economy and ensure women have economic opportunities, the gender inequality needs to be addressed.

Wanted: Women Angels

The first of the speakers to share her insights with the TechWomen Power Breakfast audience was Alison Pyott, a partner, senior wealth manager, and Certified Financial Planner for Veris.

Liz Gray pointed out that Veris has been active in gender-lens investing, offering a paper on what it means to invest with a gender lens. Alison proceeded to speak about why women should be investing on the one hand, and on the other hand, why investing in women entrepreneurs is important.

Veris identifies two important opportunities: First is the “Power of Parity,” a term coined by the McKinsey Global Institute, who released two reports recently regarding the effects of gender inequality from an economic perspective. McKinsey believes that advancing women’s equality—enabling women to achieve their full economic potential—can add $12 trillion to global growth, with $4.3 trillion of that in the U.S.

The second opportunity is in harnessing the “Power of the Purse.” Alison mentioned a book written by Andrea Turner Moffitt about the power of the current largest growth market: women. Women represent 45% of U.S. millionaires, and it’s estimated that by 2030 they will hold two-thirds of U.S. wealth.

Alison described how, when women invest, they want to invest in initiatives that will create social change, such as gender diversity or other causes that are important to them. Veris believes that as women increasingly come into their wealth, there is an opportunity for them to think about how they can create change with their investment dollars.

Five influencers hindering many women from participating in investing:

  1. Cultural bias.

    Investing has long been a man’s world and women are underrepresented in financial leadership positions. Women are often viewed as not being financially savvy.

  2. Confidence gap.

    Research shows women and men are just as knowledgeable when it comes to investment, but women’s confidence is frequently significantly lower than men’s, hindering their ability to take action.

  3. Women often lack access to investor networks and entrepreneurs.

  4. Women tend not to see a path from using their money philanthropically to becoming an investor.

    In addition, because of cultural bias, they frequently don’t get support from those around them to enable their desires.

  5. Risk aversion.

    Many women have an incredible need to store their money and don’t want to take a risk with family money or inherited wealth.

Alison said that during the last financial crisis in 2007-2008, someone quipped, “What if Lehman Brothers were Lehman Sisters?” We all laughed, and Alison went on to say, “How different would our world look? We know that when we have diverse groups, we make better decisions. Companies that have diversity in their leadership have better financial and operational performance, and fewer instances of fraud and bribery, giving us better companies and communities, and a better world.”

Important things to think about as we explore the opportunities to increase the number of women involved with investing.

Stay tuned for the next installments sharing insights from other speakers featured during the “Wanted: Angel Women” event at the NHHTC’s Tech Women Power Breakfast.

The TechWomen Power Breakfast series is an initiative of the New Hampshire High Tech Council, serving professionals enthusiastic about technology and supporting the efforts of girls exploring STEM as a career or area of study. Visit the NHHTC website for more information on upcoming TechWomen Power Breakfasts.

Candice_BensonCandice Benson is an internationally recognized management consultant and CEO of Benson Consulting Inc. She is chairperson of the New Hampshire High Tech Council’s TechWomen Power Breakfast Series committee. Connect with her and her blog here.

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