June 4th, 2020
By Hilla Ovil-Brenner, Managing Director of Techstars Tel Aviv and a serial entrepreneur
COVID-19 has also impacted entrepreneurs in unimaginable ways. For Women entrepreneurs, trying to stay afloat amidst this catastrophe may seem impossible. Women starting businesses already experience barriers to entry and a lack of funding compared to men. They are underrepresented, and since investors turn to protect their existing portfolios — which includes very few women founders, it is therefore easy to assume women-led ventures will be hit in a severe way by this pandemic. But I also believe that women-led ventures will be the backbone of recovery in communities.
In this time of social distancing, uncertainty, and constant worries about the future of our society and our economy, we need to stay optimistic and focus on the resources and opportunities we have right now, that can help us make it through this time of intense difficulty.
Effective leadership behaviors, more commonly found in women, are exactly what will help companies get through the crisis. I want to highlight a few:
Motivate through transformation - Academic studies show that women are more likely to lead through inspiration, transforming people’s attitudes and beliefs, and aligning people with meaning and purpose (rather than through carrots and sticks), than men are. Since transformational leadership is linked to higher levels of team engagement, performance, and productivity, it is a critical path to improving leaders’ performance.
Don’t command, empathize - Throughout history, we have told women that they are too kind and caring to be leaders, but the notion that someone who is not kind and caring can lead effectively is at odds with reality. Men can learn a lot about how to do this effectively by watching and imitating women.
Focus on elevating others - Female leaders have been proven to be more likely to coach, mentor, and develop their direct reports than male leaders. They are true talent agents, using feedback and direction to help people grow. This means being less transactional and more strategic in their relationship with employees, and it also includes the openness to hire people who are better than themselves, because their egos are less likely to stand in the way.
Technology and digitalization have become more important than ever. Due to the current circumstances, the whole world will have to work more digitally. That’s why now is the time to adopt new tools.
This is a great opportunity for female founders to create their network and leverage their connections. Connections and relationships, especially in a business context, tend to be transactional. Research shows that women manage relationships better when they are less transactional. This new reality opens up the possibility to foster your network as relationships become less transactional.
At times like this it is important to be very mindful of your budget. Create solid business plans and cut your budget where necessary. That doesn’t mean that you have to let go of lots of your employees. Be rational and not emotional. Make sure to have enough money to last you through the next 1.5 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents us with an opportunity to affect systemic changes. Let’s make the most of this opportunity. It is in all of our interests.
Hilla Ovil-Brenner is managing director of the Techstars Tel Aviv Accelerator. A serial entrepreneur in the high-tech industry for the past 20 years, she is a true believer in innovation and team spirit. Hilla specializes in turning dreams into reality through passion, experience, and skill. She was named one of the top 100 influential people in the hi-tech ecosystem by geektime. Hill is the Founder of Yaazamiyot, the biggest female founders group in Israel.