One of the most common questions I receive as a female entrepreneur is if I am supported more by males or females in business. Throughout my journey, I’ve been blessed to have a network of supportive women, but also equally supportive men, from my mentors, family members, to colleagues who provided valuable advice and helped me take my business to the next level.
Nevertheless, as might be the case with many female entrepreneurs around the world, we are often put in situations where we have to deal with “mansplaining”. The Oxford Dictionary defines mansplaining as: “the practice of a man explaining something to a woman in a way that shows he thinks he knows and understands more than she does.”
One incident that comes to mind happened last year when my female business partner and I travelled abroad on a business trip. We were invited to a meeting with a businessman who wanted to invest in our company. Surprised that we were younger than he had thought, he started the meeting explaining how we can develop our products and asking us why we had not done this or that to grow our company.
It was a bemusing experience as we had already done everything he was suggesting, which was included in a document sent to him prior to our meeting. He did not take the time to look at it before we met, mansplained us and so we cut the meeting short.
Our experience with "mansplaining" is not uncommon in the business world. It often negatively impacts female entrepreneurs seeking funding. A study published in Harvard Business Review in 2017, illustrates how male venture capitalists viewed young female entrepreneurs seeking investment and funding opportunities as "inexperienced", while they considered young male entrepreneurs as "promising".
A female entrepreneur colleague, who operates a tech-based business, complained how she has a hard time getting funding from venture capitalists compared to male colleagues in the field.
Here are a few pointers for female entrepreneurs on how to deal with mansplaining investors:
First and foremost be confident. It may not be easy especially if you are at the start of your career, but the best advice I have is to wing it until you make it. Practice makes perfect. Repeat your practice sessions until you have a winning pitch that can convince those across the table to invest in your company and vision.
Research your investors. Take your time to know your investors and see if they have invested in female owned or led companies. Research what they, believe in, what their vision is, review any of their interviews, and ensure that you have similar values before you meet.
Have all the numbers ready. Sometimes you unfortunately have to sit in front of investors who assume they know more about your work than you do, so the best way is to be prepared. Make sure that you have all the updated figures from projections, marketplace size, and any other relevant statistics that you can leverage. It is best to share those figures, or incorporate them in your pitch before your investors ask about them. The more figures you provide the more you can highlight your expertise and knowledge. Show don't just tell.
Don't sell your company short. As a business owner, it feels great to have someone believe in your passion and wants to invest in it too, but do not do that at the expense of your company. Leave room for negotiation and only proceed with an offer if you feel confident about it.
Be assertive. Finally, don't allow mansplainers to take the lead in a conversation or talk over your pitch or presentation. You can professionally interrupt unsolicited advice, or insights, and guide them back to the conversation. This can be delivered in a polite way, in a short statement such as: "Thank you but we've got this, now going back to my point". If you are being talked over, you could say: "Let me continue this, and we can discuss that later."
The best way to deal with mansplaining investors is to be prepared, confident, assertive, and to only go ahead with an opportunity if you are comfortable with it.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi