The future of innovation depends on women being a powerful pack, like a pack of wolves. Hear me out on this…
Women are still stuck in the land of fairy tales. Deep inside so many of us, men and women, we still think of women as girls who need to be cautioned, protected, and saved. It’s straight out of Little Red Riding Hood. Remember the tale? Little Red Riding Hood was given strict instructions to keep her head down, stay on the path, and don’t talk to strangers on her way to grandmother’s house in the woods. You know the rest. Fortunately, she was saved by the brave woodsman. The moral of the story? Keep your head down, stay on the path, and don’t talk to strangers. And find yourself a brave woodsman to take care of you.
What if the story was told differently? What if Little Red was raised to believe that she was not just a powerless, little girl, and she didn’t need to wear a “Handmaid’s Tale” cape over her head? Instead, what if she was raised to believe that she was a strong, powerful wolf? This is the story of Abby Wambach, arguably the most successful soccer player in history, male or female. Abby tells this story in her Commencement Speech at Barnard College, and now refers to her female comrades as her “wolfpack.”
This shift in mindset empowers women and allows us to demand what we deserve and contribute what we can. As Abby so rightly observes, it is this radical shift, this true innovation, that will move us forward. If we keep playing by the old rules we will never change the game, and we will all be held back.
Women are wolves.
I love how Abby goes on to explain how the wolves, just like women, were feared as a threat to the ecosystem but they turned out to be its salvation. Our landscape is overrun with archaic ways of thinking about women. Furthermore, women’s ideas are not taken seriously because we’re still telling the outdated story of Little Red Riding Hood. Not anymore: Innovation is howling to be heard but first, we’ll need to collectively shift the ecosystem and change the way we do business. As I built a global accelerator, Women’s Startup Lab, I realized that women can expand how they think. The bigger pool of talented people (and women) are waiting to be discovered. The bias towards women is flawed and you can form your own opinion and grow a scalable company with your big idea. If it’s not there, you hunt like a wolf.
Here are three rules to live by to unite our pack:
- Start questioning.
The success models that we blindly “follow” and regard as success are actually the male models of business as a success. Imagine a successful leader. The perception that comes to mind is often a no-smiling, dominant male figure. This example is not awful but once you dig deeper, there is a fatal flaw and it becomes quite limiting for women leaders. Who needs limitations in a world where we can grow and expand faster than ever?
One of the negative consequences of this archaic mindset is the pay gap: Women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. But what if money is not the only way to view “success”? How can we redefine success to usher in a new paradigm of collaboration? Women raise money and make money but not in the way you may think. Women are raising a significant amount of money in the world, even a non-profit or school PTA. Women are capable — we have to begin to question the system and the status quo so that we can…
2. Become unstoppable entrepreneurs.
Women Startup Lab (WSLab) teaches women entrepreneurs to have the mindset shift that’s necessary to see the world differently. As a result, they gain personal insight, confidence and clarity with their message. For example, take Jaclyn Baumgarten, the CEO and Co-Founder of Boatsetter, the “Airbnb” of boats. She’s now raised $31 million and dominates her industry, most recently recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the “100 Women Building America’s Most Ambitious and Innovative Businesses.” But let’s go back…Jackie was winning first place in every pitch event. She was the one who created the industry, negotiating with insurance companies to create an insurable market, and yet her other competitors were getting funded. Through the WSL accelerator, she found her “wolf pack,” gaining the support of a pack of advisors who became her champions, catapulting her forward to market domination.
By some unofficial accounts, women entrepreneurs who graduated from Stanford raise an average of $350K vs the $1.5M raised by their male counterparts. Little Red Riding Hood would keep her head down and pretend not to see this. By contrast, the wolf pack springs into action.
3. Collaborate to win
This concept of advisorship and championship is known as hitology among us at WSLab. It asks: Why do we have to compete to win? After years spent studying women’s issues, it’s clear that the data supports women as true leaders, albeit with a different approach.
A lone wolf dies. But its pack survives. It took us until now to remember: We were always the wolves. Let’s unite our pack and change the system.
We united our pack on Thursday, September 19th at WiSE24: We hosted a global pitch event, for female entrepreneurs who were invited to “Rise Locally, Empower Globally.” Over 50 top startups from 10 locations, were on the global stage of Women’s Startup Lab at WiSE24. We rallied together in ten locations, with each location allotted thirty minutes on the global stage. 1,500 viewers around the world celebrated these top entrepreneurs, and over 60% were investors.
Note: To all of the investors who say that it’s hard to find women entrepreneurs, we won’t be hiding with a cape over our heads anymore. Instead, we’ll be standing tall on the global stage. Come howl with us. Innovation is finally being heard. The next WiSE24 2020 will take place March 5, 2020. Join us and be part of #HistoryMaking.