Education and Skills

5 new female-led companies achieve billion-dollar status

A model poses for photographers during auditions for an upcoming fashion week as a worker cleans a window at a hotel in Mumbai February 2, 2009. Models from India and other countries participated in the auditions for the Lakme Fashion Week which will be held in March. REUTERS/Arko Datta (INDIA) - GM1E5221UDY01

Five women-led U.S.-based tech startups became legendary this year, five more than in the previous three years. Image: REUTERS/Arko Datta

Derek Beres
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Education and Skills?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Education is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Education

Unicorns are mythical creatures that captured popular imagination long ago — and even today! In the business world, unicorn companies are an equivalent chimera— they're mythical to start-up founders who dream of joining billion-dollar valuation club. At the moment, there are 357 companies worldwide that have achieved this status (358 if you count Jay-Z as a business, man).

This year has been especially good for a particular segment of the unicorn club: female-led companies. Five women-led U.S.-based tech startups became legendary this year, five more than in the previous three years. Those startups are:

  • Away: a "modern smart luggage" company that partnered with Peace Direct to help raise funds for conflict-torn regions around the world. The co-founders are Jen Rubio and Steph Korey.
  • Confluent: an open-source event streaming platform. The founder is Neha Narkhede.
  • ezCater: a business catering company representing over 62,000 restaurants in America. Stefania Mallett is a cofounder.
  • Glossier: a millennial makeup company that leverages Instagram to sell in-house brands. The founder and CEO is Emily Weiss.
  • Rent the Runway: a company that lends designer dresses through a subscription service. The cofounders are Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss.

This news of barriers being crossed — not to mention the value created by women — comes in the wake of increased discussions about the gender pay gap. Of course, these new additions are unicorns (rarities) within a field of unicorns, but the fact that successful female-led companies are joining what has predominantly been a boy's club suggests we're heading in a more egalitarian direction.

At the very least, in terms of representation.

Guy Raz with Away Co-Founder, Jen Rubio

Loading...

While it would be nice to imagine that companies succeed based on the merits of their idea and implementation, this has long not been the case. Implicit bias isn't only involved in cases of race; gender-based decisions (such as funding and hiring) are guided by internal biases as well. In her Big Think Edge video, Ellevest CEO and cofounder Sallie Krawcheck says this affects every pay grade at a company, not only C-level employees — and pay grade is often the contention.

Krawcheck advises women to immediately negotiate upon entering the workforce. Having managed companies for years, she says that men would regularly stroll into her office prior to bonus season to state their expectations. Over and over, they overshot what they were budgeted for.

Women, in contrast, rarely stated what they expect. Even someone aware of the pay gap, like Krawcheck, still falls victim to stated expectations. She might not pay the men what they expected, but often they receive more than women of the same caliber.

To empower yourself in preparation for asking for a raise or stating your bonus expectation, Krawcheck suggests understanding the metrics of your company. What is your client satisfaction score? How many new clients have you landed? What are your sales figures?

Have you read?

Whatever industry you're in, knowing how your role fits into the overall company structure benefits both you and the organization. Display evidence of your success so that management recognizes your achievements. We live in a world where the loudest often succeed, so be loud, or at least louder than silent.

Krawcheck goes on to say that the retirement savings crisis in America — 40 percent of middle-class older workers are likely be poor or near that threshold over the next dozen years — is actually a crisis in women:

"We retire with two-thirds the money of men and we live six to eight years longer. Eighty percent of nursing home residents are women. So it really is, while we're not used to thinking about it through a gendered perspective, it is really a women's issue."

This is why Krawcheck tells women to invest, another heavily male-dominated field. Equal financial status means you don't have to cater to the other gender, which is a confidence booster. The longstanding myth of the dependent women needs to fade as women achieve equal pay. Suddenly it's not only men asking for the raise or increasing their chance for a larger bonus. When women make demands, the bonus pool is more fairly spread around.

As the unicorns above show, we are moving in the right direction, though much more work needs to be done. As Krawcheck notes, the more women claim their financial worth, the more level the playing field. Hashtag activism won't get you inside management's door. You have to cross the barrier yourself. Fortunately, we can all be inspired by the founders above, who each did just that.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Education and SkillsEquity, Diversity and InclusionEconomic Growth
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How to develop creative talent for a sustainable and AI-driven future

Chun Yin Mak

June 18, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum