Women-led startups and the #TimesUp movement

Loretta McCarthy, managing partner, Golden Seeds

April 19, 2018

On the first day of 2018, a few hundred women working in Hollywood hit reset on a hashtag-led movement against sexual harassment in the workplace. #MeToo made way for #TimesUp, and the actresses, directors, producers and writers who signed onto the “unified call for change” were clear they intended that change to reach beyond the screen and stage to end sexual assault, harassment and inequality in every workplace.

Many experts believe the key to reaching the goal of such a movement is changing the balance of power — something Golden Seeds has been focused on since our inception in 2005. This includes fostering gender-diversity at all levels; in the C-suite, in the boardroom, in investor pitch meetings.

Golden Seeds’ longstanding view is that gender-diverse teams are healthier teams. The world we envision is reflected in the suggestions for change now embraced by the Time’s Up effort. These include looking at the leadership in your organization to consider: “Does it reflect the market where you operate and the world we live in? If not, ask why not and consider how to move it closer to that goal.” As importantly, “Acknowledge that talent is equally distributed, but work and career opportunities are not…hire [people] who will diversify the perspectives in your organization; your team will be better and stronger for it.”

We are watching the #TimesUp movement with great interest, especially as it underscores the work we do with women-led companies. This is a many-layered, complex, systemic challenge. Not surprisingly, many have said it’s hard to know what to do in response.

While this movement and others that preceded it follow their own evolutions, Golden Seeds has seen two consistent needs through the years: there must be greater balance of power in businesses, as well gender diversity at every organizational level.

More gender diversity is a crucial way to mitigate harassment in the workplace, and we’ve also seen how essential it is to creating value for investors, customers and markets. In 2016, women entrepreneurs accounted for 22% of all companies that received startup funding. That’s a significant jump from 3% in 2004 when Golden Seeds was founded, but there’s a long way still to go. Calling “time’s up” for startup founders and leaders requires angel investment that focuses on women leaders and considerable advantages of gender-diversity.

Below are some of the stories we’ve read lately that underscore the need we see to foster vibrant opportunities for women leaders in business. We’re gratified to see these calls for gender diversity getting broader attention. It’s good for women-led companies. It’s good for investors. And it’s good for employees.

New York Times: “Sexual harassment training doesn’t work. But some things do.”

Typical corporate sexual harassment training doesn’t end sexual harassment. In some cases, it can even exacerbate harassment. This article lists evidence-based ideas that go beyond the classes companies implement for their own legal protection to create healthier corporate cultures. Among them: promote more women.

Harvard Business Review: “Training programs and reporting systems won’t end sexual harassment. Promoting more women will.”

Speaking of promotion, sociology professors from Harvard University and Tel Aviv University got together to pen this HBR article, which calls for hiring and promoting more women as a solution to the root causes of workplace harassment. They note that “…harassment flourishes in organizations where few women hold the ‘core’ jobs. Fixing this is about finding power in numbers, not just in authority and hierarchy.” More women are harassed in the fields where they are vastly outnumbered — firefighting, for example, as well as academia and technology.

Washington Post: “The one best idea for ending sexual harassment”

In this roundup from the Post, the newspaper asks thought leaders from 16 industries to share one idea for ending workplace harassment. Among various points of view are those calling for a shift in the balance of power between women and men in companies, particularly at the executive level.


Learn more about Golden Seeds companies and how women entrepreneurs are achieving success with Golden Seeds.