Is Captain Marvel a signal for the startup scene to become more diverse?

With the release of the new Captain Marvel trailer, we look into if the greater diversity in movies can spell out great things for female founders and minority entrepreneurs

Is Captain Marvel a signal for the startup scene to become more diverse?

The superhero genre is changing. While hulking hunks like Thor and Batman have fought the good fight in their own movies for decades, the last few years have seen a rise of more diverse heroes take to the big screen. In 2017, Gal Gadot starred in the critically-acclaimed Wonder Woman – also led by female director Patty Jenkins – and in 2018 Chadwick Boseman became the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first black lead in Black Panther – also helmed by black director Ryan Coogler. And now, with the release of the first trailer of Captain Marvel, it’s safe to say diversity in the space is here to stay.

While we’ll have to wait to see if Oscar winner Brie Larson’s portrayal of Marvel’s most powerful hero yet lives up to expectations, we do wonder what the growing representation means for the startup ecosystem. Because, just like in superhero movies, the entrepreneurial landscape is dominated by white men.

In her new book Brotopia, Emily Chang breaks down how Silicon Valley has created a culture where female founders struggle to succeed and where women in tech constantly face sexism. Moreover, she argues that the trend of VCs who seemingly only want to back white guys in hoodies who graduated from Stanford University is actually crippling innovation, with many products being only targeted towards white guys. For example, when Apple introduced Face ID with the iPhone X, it reportedly struggled to tell different Asians apart. Similarly, Google Photo’s face recognition software classified black people as gorillas as recently as 2015.

But this is not just a problem for the San Francisco Bay Area. Indeed, when Access Commercial Finance, the commercial finance provider, looked at how different UK-based businesses were being funded, the researchers found that female-led startups raised on average 44p for every £1 raised by male-led companies.

The funding gap is hardly surprising given that only 27% of employees at VC firms are women and just 18% have analyst or partner titles, according to research from Diversity VC, the non-profit organisation promoting equality in the VC industry.

And that’s why having women and people of colour as protagonists in movies like Black Panther and Captain Marvel matters.”Representation in mainstream media for the less-represented is incredibly important,” said Jack Bird, content and off page SEO specialist at Add People, the digital marketing agency, when speaking to Elite Business. “[Seeing heroes] of the same skin colour, gender or disability as you can be incredible inspiring when they are so infrequently depicted.”

He added: “Little girls will see Brie Larson as Captain Marvel and be inspired that someone just like them are saving the [world.] This diversity is exactly what will inspire the startups that felt alone, even unable, because they are unrepresented. Your skin, gender or physical ability might make you feel different, but ‘different’ isn’t too far from ‘unique.’ It’s up to the startups to show the world how unique they really are and films like Captain Marvel and Black Panther will give them the courage to do so.”

Indeed, Ryan Jackson, founder of Gemini Parking Solutions, the parking management company, believes more representation in movies shows that more women and people from different minorities [should] try their hand at entrepreneurialism. “It really reflects the change in attitude towards the role that women play in society,” he told Elite Business. “And, as an entrepreneur who’s come from a diverse background, I grew up not having access to positive role models and now know the importance of having the correct heroes that represent the values that empower us. When I first started my business I was very much aware of prejudgments being made of me and sometimes this can manifest itself in the form of self-doubt.”

He added: “On a unconscious level, these positive changes in the film industry will introduce a new level of thought, empowerment and belief to an impressionable younger generation. They will leave the cinema with the notion that they can be great [and] make a difference.”

No matter how Captain Marvel does at the box office, it’s safe to say that the galactic champion is already a hero.

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

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