Panel 1

Why women-owned startups are a better bet

According to a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group, when women business owners pitch their ideas to investors for early-stage capital, they receive significantly less than men – a disparity that averages more than 1 million USD. Yet businesses founded by women ultimately deliver higher revenue – more than twice as much per dollar invested – than those founded by men, making women-owned companies better investments for financial backers.

One might think that gender plays no role in the realm of investing in early-stage companies. Investors make calculated decisions that are (or should be) based on business plans and projections. Moreover, a growing body of evidence shows that organisations with a higher percentage of women in leadership roles outperform male-dominated companies. Unfortunately, however, women-owned companies do not receive the same level of financial backing as those funded by men.

The panel will explore the real reasons for the gender-based funding challenge, ways to overcome the challenge, ways that women founders – while lobbying for long-term change – can operate intelligently in the current ecosystems. It will also discuss how women can be coached on the realities of the market and which institutions should play a more active role in easing access to finance for women entrepreneurs.

Panel 2

Future trends: The increasing role of women angel investor networks in early-stage equity markets

Notably, women entrepreneurs are stepping up to the plate: In a survey of 279 U.S. women entrepreneurs conducted jointly by Inc. and Fast Company, a surprising 42 percent said that in addition to running their own companies, they made personal investments in startups. On the flip side, of those who had raised outside capital, 38 percent said they specifically sought out female investors.

As of November 2017, according to the Angel Capital Association, 22 percent of angels are female. That percentage may sound low, but it is a lot higher than in the venture capital industry, where only 9 percent of decision-makers are female, according to CrunchBase. And the trend is upward: 30 percent of angels who began investing in the past two years are female. These women are more likely to consider the gender of the entrepreneurs they back than men are: 51 percent of female angels say an entrepreneur's gender is ‘highly important’ in their investment decisions, compared to only 6 percent of male angels.

But more experienced angels tend to write bigger checks than newer ones. That may explain why the size of women's checks are somewhat smaller: $26,500 on average in the U.S., compared to $37,700 for men.

All these statistics signal an increasing role for women angel investors in earl-stage equity markets. The panel discussants will attempt to predict the trend for the coming years and come up with ways to include more women in investing in startups. They will consider issues such as the type of financial training women need and how women can be encouraged to take more risks in equity markets.

Panel 3

Opportunities and challenges for women entrepreneurs in the global innovation value chain

The time for women leadership has come. Women have made impressive marks in politics and the business world, making their voices heard and breaking the glass ceiling of boardrooms, including those in the male-dominated tech industry.

More and more women parade into tech companies or even become startup entrepreneurs, making their mark in this male-dominant industry. In the 2017 Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, 18 of these ‘she-bosses’ work in the tech industry. The rise of women startups is not a Western phenomenon. In China, where women are often relegated to a submissive back-seat role, 55% of startups are owned by women, according to the 2018 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs.

Women do not wait for the future. When one woman helps another, amazing things happen, and they become innovators. This panel will explore how more women can be included in innovation processes in the startup economy, and in research and development. The discussants will also touch on opportunities for women entrepreneurs in early-stage equity markets and the challenges women entrepreneurs face as they create their success stories.

Panel 4

Board Room: Empowering the world economy by including more women in company boards

The available data on gender diversity shows that, globally, women hold only16.7% of public company board seats, with significant variations across regions. On the other hand, research shows that diverse boards take better decisions, which ultimately leads to better financial returns and long-term value creation. Organisations with the ability to innovate quickly and reach new customer bases faster have one thing in common; their board reflects the world around them. These organisations tend to be few and far between. A case in point: despite making up half the population, women continue to be poorly represented in the boardroom. As a result, we are finding that organisations and their boards are overlooking a strategic opportunity to drive value.

This panel will explore innovative ways to encourage all relevant parties to take the necessary steps to achieve diversity. It requires, for instance, a commitment from company leadership, investors and policy-makers alike. It will raise and aim to answer questions about how organisations can identify qualified women and create opportunities early in their career for sponsorship, mentoring and advancement, and equally important, how to promote a culture in organisations that will encourage and support diversity and inclusion.

Panel 5

Women emerging as strong leaders in the 21st century

Women have, for long years, succeeded in their careers by virtue of their ability to adjust to the male-dominated culture and field-specific business processes. They play by the existing rules in the workplace and have the additional hurdle of society's perceptions of how women should act and be seen. While education and practice have reduced some of the invisible angst of being a woman in a leadership role, there are challenges nevertheless. Current women leaders have a responsibility to embrace a role-model status and address those challenges head-on with action and execution.

To that end, more and more women in leadership positions are pushing the boundaries of gender equality by capitalizing on their leadership qualities and their skills, knowledge, experience and insights. They are actively pursuing what they want from their job and their career, not waiting for it to come to them.

The panel will aim to identify key steps that can produce women who are strong leaders in business, in arts, in politics — in any area male-dominated. They will also define the characteristics of strong women leaders, their mindsets and their action plans that help them overcome challenges of male-dominated industries.