Piper Female Founders Dinner: Making business work for women

‘So, when are you going to breed?’, ‘Take your heals off, you’re taller than the men’, ‘Can you please look more womanly?’. These are extracts from the stories, some painfully funny others downright discriminatory, at our recent female founders dinner.

We recently invited a group of female leaders from our brand community for a dinner at Ziggy Green (visit if you haven’t yet, and don’t miss the hidden underground cocktail bar) to discuss how to make business work for women. To host our discussion, we were joined by our How I Grew My Brand podcast series host and ITV news anchor, Mary Nightingale, who began the night asking us to share shocking stories of being a woman in business. The idea was to get the negative off our chests before we moved onto the positive.

We gathered these women together as part of our growing work to support both female and diverse founders. Sadly, the statistics are gloomy, less than 2% of VC funding goes to female founders. At Piper we’re proud that we buck the trend with nearly half of our portfolio companies founded or co-founded by women. And, as our co-founder Libby Gibson said in her welcome to the guests, change is possible, change is happening, and women working together is essential to gaining equality. Recently, Government legislation to raise the increase the income threshold for angel investors which would have disproportionately impacted female angels was overturned by a female led campaign.

A shared experience round the room was how often female focused brands didn’t get interest from a retailer or investor until there was a woman in the decision-making process. What’s shocking about this is that, statistically, female led businesses are more successful. A Boston Consulting study found that businesses founded by women yield returns that are 50% higher, so investors and retailers are missing opportunities by not engaging with companies they don’t personally relate to.

But, more importantly, we then moved onto what the female leaders in the room were already doing to level the playing field and support women. We touched on many ideas, but these three stood out,

  1. Proactively Supporting Women
    – Women are more likely to hire women. 70% of men will rate a man more highly than a woman for achieving exactly the same goals. Adding 1 more woman to a recruitment shortlist makes the odds of hiring a woman 79 times greater.
    – Making sure that women are part of the decision-making processes in all areas of business ensures that companies succeed. Companies with over 30% women executives were more likely to outperform companies with a lower % of women executives.
  2. Women need to stop preventing and start promoting.
    In this TED Talk, it is discussed that when raising capital, women are more likely to be asked how they prevent loss, unlike their male counterpoints who are asked about success. Many of our guests shared that experience. By responding to those questions in a positive and promotional tone, women can break the loop of being expected to manage risk and focus on their achievements and potential.
  3. Flexibility allows women, and men, to thrive.
    Many of the female leaders in the room already had varying degrees of flexible working in their companies, meaning that employees manage their own schedules and success is measured by KPIs not hours/days in the office. This supports care givers and needs to be extended to men as well to give everyone space to look after themselves and their dependents.

With the brands attending ranging from £100m + turnovers, to early-stage start-ups, the power of community and mentorship among women was clear. They shared both experiences and innovations amongst each other. It has been wonderful to make introductions, new connections and see collaborations between our guests.

As investors, we acknowledge that much needs to be done to improve access to funding and support for both female and diverse founders. As well as events like this, we are expanding our network and encouraging growing consumer brands to get in touch with us directly, we can have an intro call, take a look at your deck, and make introductions to others who can help. If you’re a British consumer brand who needs this kind of support, please get in touch.

Thank you again to Mary Nightingale, Prue Freeman who founded Daisy Green restaurants and hosted us, and of course to all the amazing female founders and leaders who joined us. This was our first, but most certainly not our last, Piper Female Founders Dinner.