New Vegan Women Summit™ study highlights challenges for women innovators in emerging industry
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Nearly half of female founders and CEOs in the plant- and cell-based food technology industry report encountering bias from investors, with gender bias overwhelmingly cited as the most common form, according to a survey conducted by the Vegan Women Summit™, a media and events organization dedicated to inspiring, educating, and empowering rising women leaders to bring compassion to their career and industry.
The Vegan Women Summit™ survey polled 160 women founders and top executives at plant-based and cell-based food startups around the world in July and August. In a key finding, 48% of respondents say they have faced bias during the fundraising process, with 75% of those women saying they have faced gender bias specifically.
“It’s incredibly disappointing to hear that gender and racial bias continue to have such a significant effect on investment in innovation in such a strong emerging market,” said Jennifer Stojkovic, founder of Vegan Women Summit™. “Women entrepreneurs in food tech are dealing with the same obstacles that women leaders, particularly women of color, have faced in Silicon Valley for decades. But information is power. While these survey results call attention to the disparities in the food tech industry, the numbers also reveal major opportunities for strategic investment.”
Despite the barriers facing these women leaders, the survey also demonstrated promising growth potential for the industry. More than one-third (35%) of all founders shared that their business has inspired them to move toward a more plant-based diet, indicating that the explosive growth in the plant and cell-based space is attracting entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. Further, almost two-thirds (63%) of founders stated their plan to fundraise within the next year, with 59% of respondents aiming to raise at least $1 million dollars in investment and 11% seeking $10 million dollars or more.
Other notable findings from the Vegan Women Summit™ survey include:
- Bias: Nearly half (48%) of all respondents report experiencing bias in fundraising, with 75% stating they have faced gender bias and nearly half (47%) of all respondents of color reporting that they have experienced racial bias.
- Co-founder inequity: Of the 49% of respondents who reported having co-founders, 69% had at least one male co-founder. Seventy-five percent of respondents with a male co-founder say men do not face the same investment challenges as women founders.
- Harassment and Discrimination: 30% of respondents report experiencing harassment or discrimination in their role as a founder, with half of those saying the source of harassment or discrimination was an investor and 40% saying it was a vendor or supplier. More than one-third of those who reported harassment (35%) said they took no action in response.
- Anxiety and Caregiver Burden: More than half of respondents (53%) say they have experienced or are currently experiencing anxiety, with 82% of those reporting it was related to their role as a founder. Additionally, 45% of respondents reported facing additional barriers as a mother, with time constraints from caregiving, fewer networking opportunities and financial burdens listed as the top barriers.
- COVID-19: Almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents have pivoted their company in response to the pandemic, with 30% reporting increased investor interest and 50% reporting increased customer demand. Overall, 40% of respondents reported an overall positive impact from the pandemic, while 39% reported a negative impact.
“The results of the Vegan Women Summit™ survey present the most detailed portrait available of the challenges women face in this emerging industry,” Stojkovic said. “At the same time, the survey reveals the massive opportunity for investment in female founders. Over $1 billion dollars has been invested in the plant-based space since the pandemic began in March. With nearly two-thirds of female founders fundraising within the next year and more than half seeking investments into the millions, there has never been a better time to invest in female-led innovation.”
More than 250 women attended the inaugural Vegan Women Summit™ in San Francisco in February. In March, the organization launched a virtual gathering series with more than a dozen business, lifestyle and activist icons, including Miyoko Schinner, Suzy Amis Cameron, Maggie Baird, Pinky Cole, and more. In June, the organization held a racial equity summit with Tabitha Brown for a global audience of over 1,000 attendees. The series has garnered nearly 6,000 attendees worldwide.
For more information about Vegan Women Summit™, visit https://veganwomensummit.com/.
For more information about the Vegan Women Summit™ survey, visit https://veganwomensummit.com/founder-survey.