Post-pandemic we need fresh role models

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I met my co-founder Nic Ponsford on Twitter in late 2017. Almost three years later, we had founded our company, secured funding, built and launched an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion business and grown an online community of over 15k.

 

We did all this in our ‘spare time’, remotely, whilst working full time jobs. The latter stages we did against the backdrop of a global pandemic, while each home schooling three young kids.

 

We are now more convinced than ever that unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of all marginalised groups will lead to a better world – for everyone.

 

Female founders are few and far between. In 2011, 11 per cent of start-ups that raised equity investment were female founded. By 2018, this figure had grown – but to just over 21 per cent, so it’s no surprise only eight per cent of female founders feel supported by the venture community.

 

It gets worse – just five per cent of the UK’s small businesses are majority-led by someone from an “ethnic minority” group, despite 13 per cent of the UK population belonging to a Black, Asian, mixed or other ethnic group.

 

But when historically marginalised founders do break through into launching a company we excel. Eight of the UK’s 23 unicorns are founded by “ethnic minorities” and female founders yield higher revenues, higher ROI (rate on investment) and we create brilliant companies.

 

I bought my first URL at 15. I was revising for my GCSEs and the internet bubble had just started spitting out dot com millionaires. Unfortunately, back then, URLs didn’t come with interfaces that could be used by a non-tech person to build a website so it didn’t amount to anything.

 

‘My eyes became open to a world in which kids like me could put their skillset online and make money from it. The seed had been sewn’

 

While one kid proudly showed off the bullet proof vest she’d got for Christmas, another showed off the new car he’d been given for passing his driving test.

 

I learned a lot about my own privilege from an early age. My school was close to Manchester city centre with a wide catchment area and anyone who passed the 11+ and entrance exam could attend, so whilst we were all bright, we were a real mix of socio economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Some of my friends lived in houses with gardens and fancy cars; some lived on council estates, had free school meals and couldn’t go on school trips because they couldn’t afford it.

 

While one kid proudly showed off the bullet proof vest she’d got for Christmas, another showed off the new car he’d been given for passing his driving test. I was somewhere in the middle; no danger of being shot but I drove my grandpa’s clapped out Austin Metro which had algae growing on the inside.

 

This gave me a front seat view of socio-economic disadvantage, racism, homophobia, ableism, islamophobia, antisemitism, xenophobia, classism and snobbery but I was never on the receiving end of any of them. I’d go home to my warm, stable two parent home where there would be food in the cupboards and money in the bank and I always felt that privilege keenly.

 

‘There aren’t enough founders making it through who aren’t male’

 

I hadn’t yet realised that the imbalance in our world is woven into the very fabric of the clothes we wear, infused into the mortar between every brick in every single building, and the ink in every word on every page in every textbook.

 

I knew at 15 that people could put their skillset online and make money but I didn’t realise that they weren’tactually people like me. They were male.

 

There aren’t enough founders making it through who aren’t male, white, able bodied, cis gender, heterosexual and from socio-economically privileged backgrounds. This needs to change and it’s not about charity – it’s about pure talent, pure potential, brilliant ideas that could change the world.

 

Post pandemic, we need fresh role models. It’s vital we shine a light on those who have vaulted hurdle after hurdle and faced slammed door after unanswered email. It’s time we started looking for inspiration in those that got back up, day after day, dusted themselves off and had to work so much harder to make it.

 

 

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