Virgin StartUp – the Virgin Group’s non-profit that supports British entrepreneurs by providing funding and business advice – has pledged to invest equally in companies founded by men and women by the end of 2020.
The 50-50 gender investment initiative is driven by newly appointed chairwoman Linda Grant and recently promoted Managing Director Andy Fishburn.
Apart from backing businesses founded by women, Virgin StartUp aims to contribute to closing the gender gap by organizing a new program of women-led initiatives that includes business advice, guidance, and mentoring.
“The barriers have been well documented. It’s now time to make a promise that will deliver a positive change for women entrepreneurs and the British economy as a whole,” said Grant in the announcement.
Recent research points to the fact that men start twice as many companies as women in the U.K. Leveling the playing field could generate over $300 billion for the country’s economy.
“We are committed to delivering on our 50/50 gender pledge and have worked with a number of external advisors to introduce a raft of women-focused initiatives that will address the barriers women face when starting up,” Grant said.
Virgin StartUp is the first business funder in the U.K. that has made a commitment to promote equal financing for entrepreneurs of both sexes.
“I am really excited to be part of an organization that truly wants to make a positive difference. We strongly encourage other investors to do the same,” Grand added.
The non-profit also announced it is teaming up with Genderscope – a Virgin StartUp backed consultancy company that organizes workshops, training and provides policy and legal counseling. Together, they will develop a comprehensive gender strategy, addressing key organizational areas.
Yael Nevo, Co-Director of Genderscope commended Virgin StartUp for progressive leadership and said she was happy to be working with an organization that takes gender equality seriously.
“Gender equality is a business sustainability issue and companies who prioritize it, set themselves at a great advantage. A growing body of research clearly demonstrates how gender equality and diversity lead to better decision-making processes, greater employee satisfaction and performance, improvement in productivity, economic growth and much more,” Nevo said.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., a Silicon Valley Bank research shows that only 28% of startups have a female founder. However, efforts are being made to bridge this gap.
New York-based VC Female Founders Fund is striving to make more capital available to women who start their own companies. The organization launched a fund $27 million in May to help early-stage female-owned companies.