#1 Gender Equality Talks — Raya Yunakova

The fact is, that at present, women are seriously under-represented in the investment world. Women own about half of the European wealth but, by various estimates, make up no more than a few percent of angel investors.

For this reason, we decided to make an interview with inspirational women and we asked them what they think about gender equality in the investment world. The first one is Raya Yunakova — VC Investor at LAUNCHub Ventures.

1. Raya, please tell us what does the gender equality mean for you in the investment world?

Well, when it comes to equality, I am generally a proponent of the equality of opportunity concept — that is, giving equal chance to people to participate in key business functions.
In investment, in particular, this should mean women would be taken on par with male candidates when applying for investment positions, making investment decisions, raising funds, etc. I believe this is largely the case currently when it comes to attitudes from VC partners and LPs, at least based on my experience. Even more so, I have sometimes seen female candidates being in a more favorable position compared to male candidates because we are somewhat of a rare occurrence and in a field that seeks outliers, I think is different from the norm is working to our advantage.

2. What can be done to improve the participation of women in the investor sector in CEE?

In my view, there are 2 sides to this. On one hand, investment is a high-risk activity, and women, in general, are more leveled in our approach to risk, especially financial risk. This can be overcome through education because the more you know about something and you are prepared, the less risky it seems. On the other side, we need to address founder attitudes toward women. I have surprisingly faced some degree of apprehension from founders speaking to me and my female colleagues, which in some cases has meant we weren’t able to proceed with an investment as we didn’t get proper information on the company. My best guess is that because there are not many examples of women making investment decisions, founders tend to think that if they’re not pitching to a man, they aren’t speaking to a decision-maker. I want to stress that this has been an exception rather than the rule, but I’m raising it as if founders don’t consider pitching to women worthwhile, they wouldn’t approach women, investors, as much and this will result in lost deals on both sides. One way to improve this in my view would be to promote deals led by women more often to shed light on the image of a female investor.

3. What is your opinion about Equal chances for women to fund and get funded?

I think there are good opportunities for both of these, but statistically speaking we don’t have enough women going into the field in the first place. I believe we need to go a step earlier — encouraging more women to take higher risks by going into investment or starting their companies. Again, for me, this can be supported significantly through education and making investment and running a company more understandable therefore reducing the perception of risk. I used to do a lot of work on encouraging girls and women to go into software development and the main opportunity to do that is in the formative years — at school, not university — before girls actually make a choice on their careers. I think this is the same with investment and entrepreneurship.