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How Denmark In New York is Breaking the Gender Gap in Tech Through Female Entrepreneurship

The achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 5 on gender equality remains a pressing objective as the global community barrels towards 2030. And female entrepreneurship has long been identified as a critical boost to balancing the gender equality scales. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016–17 Women’s Report, in fact, suggests that things are improving for female business owners around the world with 163 million women worldwide starting businesses in the last year alone.

However, while progress has been slow but forward-moving in numerous sectors, female entrepreneurship in the tech world continues to remain sluggish. And any gains made in recent years risk being entirely wiped out by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

According to a recent PitchBook/All Raise report, although female-founded tech startups now make up nearly 20% of all VC-backed tech companies, they still attract a lower percentage of all tech investment. “This has to change,” says Victoria Bager, Commercial Advisor in Tech at the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. “And we’re hoping that we can finally help push the needle in the right direction to close this gender gap.”

On May 25th, Ms. Bager and Denmark in New York’s Trade Council team, in collaboration with the non-profit association Female Founders of The Future, will launch a hybrid 5-month Female Founders in Tech 2020 program with the aim of rebalancing the gender scales in the tech industry, weathering the COVID-19 crisis and winning in its aftermath.

“The FFIT 2020 program,” Ms. Bager adds, “marks the vision of building bridges between Danish female entrepreneurs and the thriving start-up ecosystem of New York.”

Denmark in New York caught up with Victoria Bager to discuss the current gender gap within Danish entrepreneurship and how the FFIT 2020 program will connect Danish female founders with inspiring start-up founders, CEOs, VCs and other key stakeholders from New York’s renowned start-up culture.

Denmark in New York: Tell us a little bit about the Female Founders in Tech (FFIT) 2020 program and what it aims to deliver to the participating female entrepreneurs?

Victoria Bager: With more than 9,000 startups and more than 100 incubators where start-ups can grow, New York is an undisputed global leader in the tech sphere. That’s why the FFIT 2020 program will bring some of the best female tech entrepreneurs from Denmark to New York to meet, learn from, and be inspired by like-minded New York business leaders for three-days of unique insights and profound takeaways.

The FFIT 2020 program ultimately is a tool to help female founders improve their pitches and gain access to expert panels and relevant United States-based investors. For this we already have over 40 investors confirmed attending. In addition, the program offers participants an opportunity to develop new leadership skills while networking and conducting critical knowledge-sharing at the series of cocktail events and company visits we have already scheduled.

We are also thrilled to announce that we have teamed up with Randi Zuckerberg’s Zuckerberg Institute to reserve one seat at their yearly Leadership retreat in Tel Aviv worth 75,000 DKK. One lucky participant of the FFIT Masterclass will be selected to join Ms. Zuckerberg, the Dalai Lama and other global leaders at the retreat where they will have the opportunity to connect with some of the most innovative entrepreneurs from around the world.

We are equally excited to note that TechDay is also among our partners providing secured spots at their Exhibition and Founders Summit for FFIT participants. And we are excited to welcome the support and contribution of both the NYC Mayor’s Office of Foreign Affairs and the successful New York-based Danish company Peakon.

Denmark In New York runs numerous Masterclasses for Danish businesses and entrepreneurs looking to get a foothold in the complicated US market. Who is the Female Founders in Tech (FFIT) 2020 program and Masterclass specifically looking to attract?

Victoria Bager: The tech industry has a well-documented ‘woman problem’ and female founders around the world have struggled to attract deserved attention and funding from investors. As a result, the FFIT program targets Danish tech startups that are founded, or co-founded, by women. And we’re certainly not exclusionary — this means that male co-founders are more than welcome to attend!

Our program is designed to encourage more female founders to start businesses in Denmark with inspiration from New York. The ideal profile of the participants spans those startups in pre-seed fundraising to Series A. It is also not necessary for participants to have plans for expansion to the United States.

That said, this is a program that first and foremost aims to build knowledge-sharing and networks and it is designed in that way. The first part of the program kicks-off with a series of four ‘Virtual Connect & Learn’ workshops and an Online Task Force that spans over a total of four months, offering a digital-first experience to support start-ups with one-on-one training. Participants will then then have an opportunity to join a transformative Masterclass program in New York in October alongside other promising start-ups.

What prompted the focus in female founders and why is it such an important area for the Trade Council to work in?

Victoria Bager: The decision to create the Female Founders in Tech 2020 program and Masterclass was largely driven by a vision of building a bridge between Denmark and New York that provides founders of tech startups with direct access to funding, mentors and local organizations. We want to provide access to the New York tech eco-system and help Denmark’s most talented female tech entrepreneurs meet with some of the most successful New York-based women in tech to share knowledge and exchange insights on how to do business in a foreign market primarily dominated by men.

Essentially, we have positioned the Trade Council as a gateway for new business opportunities and relationships.

What does the landscape for Danish and American female entrepreneurs look like today?

Victoria Bager: Denmark is the leading country in Europe that invests the most in early-stage startups measured as a percentage of GDP. Nonetheless, I personally do not believe we can close the gender gap in Denmark alone solely through Danish VCs and business angels. It will take too long. By opening up to a city like New York, that recently announced a series of initiatives to address persistent gaps in funding and business development opportunities, we seek to boost the number of investments in female founded startups by a few percentage points.

According to an analysis by “Vaekstanalyse” only a mere 25% of Danish entrepreneurs are female. What kind of value do you think this Masterclass will impart to female entrepreneurs in their businesses?

Victoria Bager: A recent Morgan Stanley report revealed that investors are missing out on a one trillion dollar opportunity due to this funding gap. New York City has more women-owned businesses than any other city in the United States. The world is taking note of the energy here in New York and, increasingly, international governments are getting into the action by sponsoring their own tech accelerators here as well. Our goal is to use the FFIT 2020 program and Masterclass as a platform to support Danish startups by giving them access to what New York has to offer.

Of course, Denmark is widely recognized as one of the most digitized countries in the world. However, that fades into the background here in New York, one of the most diverse and multicultural environments you can imagine, where the market is crowded and competition wildly fierce. This is where Denmark In New York comes in. At the Trade Council, we work tirelessly in our diplomatic roles as public affairs advocates to ensure that Denmark is present on the most relevant platforms throughout the city. This validation is crucial when it comes to fundraising and networking.

Tune in to our informational webinar on May 25th to learn more about how FFIT is propelling female-founded start-ups into the future!

Emilie Haaber Lyngaard is the Strategic Communications and Press Trainee at Denmark In New York.

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The Official Medium Blog for the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. For all things Danish, #DenmarkInNY.

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