Watch Out Boys’ Club, the Girls’ Club Is Coming

We’ve all been there. A senior-level executive dismisses you as sweetie or one of your male employees refers to you as his colleague when you are very much his boss. The gender gap is alive and well in the startup industry, but is it starting to close?
As a female founder, I’ve experienced the pendulum swing of the gender imbalance issue. At the start, I began to notice that my fees nearly always came up for negotiation—seemingly because I was a female business owner sitting across the table from them. To test the theory, I brought male employees with me into key meetings regarding fees to gauge the difference. Across the board, the fee bargaining didn’t occur when they were present.
But this presented an opposite catch-22 for me, one that other entrepreneurs have probably faced, too. I wanted (and needed) to take on the new business and grow my portfolio, but that meant saying sometimes giving in to lower, negotiated fees—essentially saying yes to gender pay inequality.
Now four years later, my startup has grown, the caliber of clients we work with has increased, and we can turn down business when the numbers don’t add up. But I think the elusive “boys’ club” that revolves mostly around startup funding, raising money and venture capital will always be present in some iteration.
However, I’ve seen the clouds parting, with more women at the helm of large budgets and leading prominent companies. That’s why it’s important for more women to excel in the financial aspects of running a business, especially funding, investing and raising money so we can help balance the gender inequality.
To that end, I’m excited to see the growing number of programs devoted to female founders and entrepreneurship that give women the support to flourish. A few months ago, I hosted an evening for Women in Business in conjunction with General Assembly, where we had more than 300 RSVPs and women waiting in line eagerly to hear female entrepreneurs speak about their experiences. It was a great opportunity to dole out advice to those just starting out, and to network with new like-minded contacts.
While this is proof that the women-in-business movement is strong, what does this mean for the gender gap? It means a “girls’ club” is forming, and the responsibility is now on female CEOs and others in powerful positions to give opportunities to deserving female entrepreneurs.
But this girls’ club won’t usher in the gender inequalities that I faced in the past. Instead, it will be an opportunity to mentor young women looking for guidance and empower women-owned businesses.
Will the girls’ club be the new boys’ club? It’s on us to make it happen.

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Jaclyn Johnson is the Founder of the Los Angeles-based creative agency (No Subject), which works with brands such as Levi’s, Nasty Gal and Levo League, and she was named as one of Forbes magazine's 30 under 30.

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