Join us! On 16 September 2019, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit will bring together female leadership from all industries to share views and discuss global challenges and opportunities. Director of Live Media Content and Co-chair of Fortune MPW International Maithreyi Seetharaman asks Co-founder and President of Clearbanc Michele Romanow her thoughts on business and why taking the time to collaborate and exchange with female peers is important.
MS: What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for female founders in the coming decade?
MR: There are so many areas where women are behind in business, but there are countless opportunities for female founders and I remain hopeful as the gap narrows. Compared to any other time in history I believe now is the greatest time to be a female founder.
Raising money will undoubtedly be one of the biggest challenges females face. Only 2.2% of all US VC went to female-founded companies in 2018, so we have a lot of work to do in the next 10 years. That’s why I encourage founders to look for alternative routes to raising VC, there are faster ways to fuel a business today. At Clearbanc we’ve backed 8x more women than the VC industry average, something I’m incredibly proud of. We’re showing if you focus on data to make investing decisions, you can take a lot of the bias out of decision making.
Another hugely important initiative for a more inclusive workplace is creating a supportive environment for parents. It’s promising to see companies announce parental leave policies for mothers and fathers, and I’m especially happy to see more fertility companies get funded (I’ve backed one myself).
MS: How have other women helped you in your career and how can “Leading Together” bridge the funding gap for female entrepreneurs in Canada and around the world?
MR: I was introduced to a woman named Ruma Bose years ago when she was writing a speech and looking to connect with other entrepreneurs. We had a 20-minute intro meeting that turned into a 3-hour phone call, I felt like I’d met a long lost friend.
Ruma has really helped guide me through my career, but it’s important to both of us that we can both grow and benefit from the relationship. Too many times we think about mentor relationships as only one person helping their mentee – all successful relationships look much more like two-way friendships.
Together, we launched the Canadian Entrepreneurship Association with Richard Branson to help encourage female entrepreneurs. I can call or text her about anything, but she also comes to me. We all have something to bring to the table no matter how early we are in our careers. It can even be as small as showing them how to use a new app effectively or making an intro someone.
MS: What’s your advice on empowering the next generation of women entrepreneurs to create sustainable businesses?
MR: Resiliency is the most important thing in any founder. Ultimately when I bet on entrepreneurs on Dragons’ Den (Canada’s Shark Tank) I’m l looking for founders who can withstand a lot of failures. Building a business is hard and you’re going to be met with no’s and roadblocks most of the time.
When I start pitching, I always tell myself I’ll hear 95 no’s before I get a yes. But those bumps along the way build resilience even further, and the female entrepreneurs I’ve met over the years are 10x tougher because of it. Never underestimate how surviving a few small (or big!) bumps multiply your resiliency.
For more inspiring conversions, please join Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit. We hope to see you in Toronto!