Startups and sexism: That was the topic of Feminist Rani, hosted by SheThePeople.TV at Cafe Zoe on Thursday (July 20). The discussion was moderated by author Meghna Pant.

Author Rashmi Bansal, CEO and co-founder of Wishberry Priyanka Agarwal, and founder of First Mom’s Club Ruchita Dar Shah, spoke about their journeys.

Starting out:

” I started my journey post motherhood, and nobody understood what I was doing,” said Shah. She said that sexism stems from home environments where a lot of women are not taken seriously. Women entrepreneurs give up mid way because they do a lot more at home. 

Agarwal agrees. She said that being an entrepreneur anyway requires hard choices. Those hard choices are more for women because they come with societal timelines. There is the marriage clock and the biological clock. “There isn’t enough support for the decisions you make. Choices come with timelines, and you have to constantly justify your choices.”

Rashmi Bansal talked about how women look at business differently. “A woman looks at her business the way she raises a child. She thinks more long term, and instinctively knows that it takes much longer and nurturing to build a sustainable business. Unfortunately, the framework of business is set by men so therefore we don’t fit that criteria. Maybe if women start businesses, the perspective will start to change,” she said. 

Sexism in the funding space:

Agarwal spoke about how many investors told her they would have invested in the business, if she had a male co-founder. Once she met a female VC, who even said the same thing. She spoke about how women often get married and neglect the business, to which Agarwal told her that such questions wouldn’t be asked to a man. Another investor told Agarwal that she would have to give him a discount given that the team is female.

Shah had a similar experience.

“Everyone was interested in what my husband did. You are a solo founder, so get a man on board, I was told. You need to quickly get a co-founder and it needs to be a man,” Shah said.

Sexual harassment in startups:

Rashmi Bansal said that this needs to be talked about more. “I can’t elaborate because the person concerned filed a court case, so I am not supposed to talk about it,” she said.  

“There is a perception that women make false complaints. For anyone to come forward, it is difficult. If she is saying it, it should be investigated.”

She also said that women reach out anonymously, but they don’t want to come out with their story. “Women want to speak, but not speak up.” 

Shah agrees. She said that so many women wanted to talk about these issues, that they even created an anonymous tab for women to vent on the app.

“The media is at fault as well,” Agarwal said. TVF was supposed to get a second round of funding, which they didn’t and it cut their workforce by half, but that wasn’t out there. “The media needs to push the fact that action has been taken so that women get the strength to speak out.”

“Women need to be more assertive,” said Bansal. “There needs to be a social boycott of people who behave like this. Why are we waiting for Silicon Valley to speak out here?”

Also Read: Feminist Rani: Women In Politics

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