“Women have taken a big hit throughout COVID-19, so it’s critical we keep pushing to make sure funding gets into their pockets, because we know once it does women are outperforming in their start-up growth and valuations,” Ms Clunies-Ross said.
As it stands, women are emerging as a powerful force in the tech industry. During 2021, three of the top five venture capital funding rounds were to female-founded companies, Airwallex, Brighte and Canva.
The pledges that firms such as Artesian have made to Beyond the Billion are not legally binding, but its founders argue the pace at which money has poured into female-led start-ups illustrates the commitment.
Beyond the Billion was founded by Shelly Porges, a member of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team before becoming senior adviser, Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP) for the US State Department. Before her public work, she was a senior executive at American Express and start-up founder in her own right.
Ms Porges co-founded the pledge with Sarah Chen, a Malaysian investor who cut her teeth at Sime Darby Berhad in Kuala Lumpur before founding Lean In Malaysia, a women’s leadership network.
The pair saw the widening gap between male and female founders, and wanted to push back on the assumption women were only focused on building or investing in fashion or beauty projects.
“We wanted to mainstream investing in women, and wanted to remove that gender lens that restricted the types of businesses that received money,” Ms Porges said.
“And it’s worked. We have hundreds of funds now investing in everything from AI to VR to fintech to cyber to blockchain.”
Ms Chen added that COVID-19 had wound back women’s progress towards increased funding.
“We’d been taking one step forward, and now we’ve had two steps back,” she said.
“That’s why we need to keep broadcasting the need for funding, and build this network where female founders are connected with investors who are dedicated to widening the investment pool.”
Research by BCG and MassChallenge released last year showed that female-led businesses generated 12 per cent higher revenues annually, using an average of a third less capital than male-led start-ups.
Per dollar of investment, women-founded start-ups generated 78¢, while start-ups run by men returned 31¢.
“This happens because women just have to perform better, they have more expectations placed on them and more hurdles to jump,” Ms Clunies-Ross said.
“While we’ve seen progress, we still note that women raise considerably less money in their funding rounds.”