Mara Rada, March 29, 2021

"We need to get women to the point where they aren’t apologizing. It is time to take ownership in our success."

- TORY BURCH, CEO and Designer of Tory Burch

There are several innovative and creative ways women are disrupting industries yet when it comes to the big corporations and the tech world, there’s an invisible wall separating these women entrepreneurs from the “big table.” There aren’t many female founders who are able to occupy top positions, despite the large number of women outperforming male entrepreneurs.

According to Forbes, "only 15% of venture capital funding is allocated to female founders", citing a Boston Consulting Group study that revealed that "for every dollar of investment raised, female-run startups generated 78 cents in revenue, whereas male-run startups generated only 31 cents". Women outperformed men "despite raising less money ($935K versus $2.12M)". The VC firm First Round Capital collected data that showed "female-founder companies it had funded performed 63% better than all-male teams" and research from Kauffman Fellows found that "women-led teams generate a 35% higher return on investment than all-male teams".

Despite all this data pointing to women rocking entrepreneurship, the shape of one's genitalia is still “the primary determining factor for attaining funding” according to a Santa Clara study on 48,000 companies. Female-led start-ups are funded at a much lower rate than male-led start-ups, at a much lower valuation, and at a much later stage. This is not unique to start-ups and, even in the VC world, female-led funds receive less funding than male-led funds (you can read more here).

With such bleak statistics, why am I then so happy to see an increasing number of founders dropping the term “female” from their titles?

Ever since 2005 when I established my first e-commerce business, I have always called myself a founder. Yes, I am a woman and an immigrant, and there have been many instances where I was told there was no room for me at the big table. I have experienced first-hand the huge discrepancy in how female founders are treated compared to our male colleagues.

So I understand why many would choose to label themselves female founders. Our experience is shaped by an environment that excludes us, ignores us, and tries to send us to our own little tables. Declaring oneself a female founder is an act of calling out the discrimination against women in our ecosystem. And for that, I give my full-hearted respect.


Yet, the biggest weapon in our arsenal is our confidence and our success, not our gender! I am a founder, I am an equal, and I refuse to paint myself as anything but that. And I have seen a huge difference in the level of respect when playing from an equal footing. Some don't like it, but they all learn to respect it sooner or later. It is not easy, but do not let anyone deter you from your path! There were many times in my professional life when the tables were turned against me. Having immigrated to Canada in the middle of my professional life, many times the “downs” were dominant and the “ups” infrequent.

Despite having worked for the world’s top advertising agencies, the likes of Ogilvy and Grey and OMD, with Fortune 50, 500, and large enterprise clients, I was still told I didn’t have the notorious “Canadian experience”. I didn’t have a professional network in Canada and seemed to mostly encounter business owners who didn’t value branding strategy, not understanding that it is THE path to winning and leading market categories. It was harsh and, sometimes, it still is. But I didn’t let any of that hold me back!

Today, I am the proud owner of CITRONADE™️ - the first agency in Canada focused exclusively on naming and category design. I am an international Startup Mentor with Founder Institute and Faster Capital and guide North American, European, MENA, and LATAM entrepreneurs to learn how to give inspiring names to their businesses and position their products to become category leaders. And I am arduously working on a technology solution to bridge the branding gap between small businesses and big corp.

When times are hard, never let yourself be judged by people who don’t value you. And never let someone else make the choices for you. You are not less and screw whoever thinks that of you! Walk on your own path. And when there’s no path, make one! You have the power to choose and there is extreme power in choice. Including the power to turn those damn tables and lead them.