How to pitch to win and help bridge the gender funding gap

The WealthiHer Network founder, Tamara Gillan, is calling for more support for female entrepreneurs in applying for and accessing vital funding

How to pitch to win and help bridge the gender funding gap

The WealthiHer Network founder, Tamara Gillan, is calling for more support for female entrepreneurs in applying for and accessing vital funding

One in three businesses are owned by women globally. More than 400 million women are entrepreneurs or business operators. Already women aged 25-45 are showing a higher intent to start a business. With focused backing and support for this entrepreneurial female tribe, this is another trend that is only set to grow. 

However, the reality is that we are yet to see the full benefit of women entrepreneurs being accorded the same priority and value as their male counterparts.  

There are 1.1 million missing businesses in the UK due to the entrepreneurial gender gap. A recent report by Diversity Beyond Gender, found most of the capital raised across funding stages from seed to late stages went to all male teams (68.3%). And just 28.8% went to all female teams, with female teams also raising lower sums of money than their male counterparts. The picture is starker for black female entrepreneurs in the U.K. who received only 0.02% of the total amount invested.

Is this a performance deficit for female founded businesses?  Absolutely not. Start-ups founded and co-founded by women perform better over time, generating 10% higher cumulative revenue over a five-year period than male-founded businesses. 

Clearly things need to change.

74% of female entrepreneurs are currently concerned about access to funding and bias in the process. The data on emergency funding for female entrepreneurs indicates there is cause for concern. We only need to review the Future Fund to see its current failing for women, where in 2020 25% of funding went to male entrepreneurs and a meagre 1.5% to females. 

Female founders in need of support

What’s clear is that female entrepreneurial teams are drastically unsupported and under-represented in applying for and accessing vital funding. Yet female entrepreneurship can help fuel economic recovery and they are 15% more likely than men to build businesses that are socially and environmentally responsible. 

According to Boston Consulting Group, closing the entrepreneurial gender gap could boost UK GDP by £250m and by $2.5tn to $5tn globally.

It’s clear that help is needed to propel these trends and ensure they continue against a challenging economic backdrop. Because with assured prosperity for female leaders and entrepreneurs, comes assured growth for all. 

The path forward 

We need a three-pronged attack: firstly, make the funding community aware of the biases and help them to tangibly overcome them in action. Secondly, connect investors with female entrepreneurs as they say they cannot find enough of them, but we know they are there. And thirdly, better arm and equip female entrepreneurs on how to pitch and win big. 

As Lara Morgan, serial entrepreneur and investor says: Women never ask for enough when pitching for business, almost being embarrassed to ask for money. This has to stop with more women making better ‘asks’ and being less afraid of rejection, which is inevitable. Persistence will pay off.  

I recently begun my funding adventures to raise equity investment for WealthiHer to take the business to the next level to continue to transform financial futures for women.  

So, I did what women do well and sought advice from some of the savviest female founders, investors, and industry experts to find out how women, myself included, can improve their chances ‘ and their confidence ‘ to succeed in securing vital financial backing.

Seasoned savvy, Lara Morgan, started by telling me to ‘get my big girl pants on and be prepared for a marathon length fight.’  She was right. For my opening pitch, I met a Zoom of men. There weren’t many pleasantries, just a ‘go’.  So go I went.  The questions were tough, but my answers have since got better each time. 

A few things I’ve learned along the way: warm up by getting pitch-ready with savvy investor allies you respect or investors you don’t really want. Don’t let the knocks knock you back, they happen to the best.  The hugely successful Huda Beauty was turned down several times.  Steel yourself and go again – which Huda did and soared. In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: big mistake, huge mistake. And try to think creatively. I’ve decided to try and rewrite the rules by turning to female investors, as with WealthiHer I want to talk the language of women. 

Pitch to win

On my funding journey I also took the advice of another inspirational woman, Kirsty Moore of Private Banking HSBC, who said in pitching scenarios you need to be prepared to win.  Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But according to Kirsty, it’s a common mistake not being prepared to win, with a ready-to-go proposed structure and shareholders agreement. 

‘Pitch to Win’ is also the motto of Daina Spedding, senior investor at the BGF who explains that ‘people buy people’ so women need to be ‘fearlessly authentic’.  Her advice to women is to know your crowd, get to the point quickly, remember less is more, know your business model, know what you want and respond, and don’t react when asked difficult questions.

Kirsty Moore from HSBC Private Banking has some practical advice for female entrepreneurs: When thinking about funding, it’s important to know your funding options.  These could include savings and bootstrapping, friends and family, bank credit, high net worth and angel investors, crowd funding, accelerators, venture capitalists or private equity.

As the founder and CEO of The WealthiHer Network, my own advice to women in business is to learn from where others have stumbled and march right through. When pitching to investors, make sure you know who your competition is, be clear on the problem, avoid weak speak, be prepared to pitch as a team and whatever you do, don’t give up. 

Try to be as authentic and human as possible. Absolutely be presumptive. Totally be prepared to win.  Close the deal with a strong departure point. And expect the yes. 

But if it’s a no, embrace it. Reflect, learn and stay resilient.


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