Here’s a refreshing change. While the obstacles to women in business are often pored over and bemoaned, we don’t hear enough of the positives and success stories to help galvanise others. (On that note, it’s worth checking out MT’s latest picks for our 2016 35 Women Under 35 – a collection of some truly impressive businesswomen with inspiring stories to tell.)
Dell’s recent ranking of the top 25 cities for female entrepreneurs is an interesting step – in the past it has just covered countries more widely – and one that actually assesses what women business owners need to thrive. Economic forecasting firm IHS developed the metrics to compile the list, looking at characteristics such as capital (the number of women in a second round or higher investment cycle and percentage of investment firms with at least one female exec), technology, talent, culture (covering the prevalence of mentors, networks and role models) and markets (the percentage of women on boards and city start-ups run by women). Here's the top ten:
1. New York
2. San Francisco
7. Washington, D.C.
'Cities that were really good in one or two things didn’t come out on top,’ said David Ricketts, fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Centre at Harvard. He chaired a symposium which kick-started the research earlier this year. New York took the top spot thanks to its ability to attract and support women entrepreneurs.
While London featured in the top five cities for capital and market, it didn’t make the cut for culture, tech or talent, indicating there’s work to be done earlier to improve the capital’s talent pipeline. As for the specifics of what New York’s doing right – female entrepreneurs there have more access to capital through women-to-women funding groups, female accelerators and access to city policies that provide an equal playing field for women. Dell’s entrepreneur-in-residence Elizabeth Gore says the latter isn’t always at the forefront of business owners’ minds, but they make a substantial difference in helping women grow their businesses.
‘Women in particular have to factor in additional costs such as childcare and elderly care expenses, which disproportionately fall to women to take care of and eat into their bottom line,’ she explained. That can be an often overlooked imbalance and this type of research is useful, if not all encompassing, to indicate what’s working and what still needs work.
And of course there are areas that need work – first placed New York only scored 58.6 out of a potential 100, suggesting even those in the top five have room for improvement. But the approach this research has taken is helpful, because it started by considering what’s being done right for female entrepreneurs. Too often the rhetoric concerning women in business is negative and repetitive; this type of study is a good example of how we can use the positive to shape action for the future. It shouldn’t be glossed over that tackling challenges women founders face (cultural biases, access to capital etc.) gives them a better chance at success, because it’s also an economic boost to the cities helping them. And that's good news for everyone; not just women.