Startup Survival Podcast

Episode 3.10 - Trust & Female Founders

May 30, 2022 Peter Harrington Season 3 Episode 10
Startup Survival Podcast
Episode 3.10 - Trust & Female Founders
Show Notes Transcript

According to the renowned author, Stephen R Covey, Trust is the glue of life. Without trust we can’t build personal relationships and we therefore cannot expect to be able to build any kind of business.

But what is trust and how does this complex subject play out in the Startup world? In this fascinating episode, entrepreneurship expert Kajal Sanghrajka explores the issue of trust and focuses the subject lens on female founders. 

Listen to this episode to learn how and where women are most likely to be trusted less compared to their male counterparts. By tuning in you’ll also discover what Kajal says about startups sustaining trust through Covid, how women in business should view the issue of imposter syndrome and much more.

Learn more about our special guest

Passionate about supporting the growth of early to mid stage businesses, Kajal Sanghrajka is an experienced entrepreneur, speaker in demand and advisor to many. Globally networked and with a finger on the pulse of global startup trends, Kajal is typically to be found at forefront of development work within the entrepreneurship industry.

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A bit of podcast author background...

UK-based Peter Harrington set up his first business following graduation in York in 1989. He has since started and grown several companies in various sectors including research, marketing, design, print, educational software and consultancy. Over the last 30+ years, Peter has employed over 1,000 people and experienced many highs and a few lows including burglaries, floods, fire and of course the most recent pandemic.

As well as being the CEO with the SimVenture team, Peter is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at London South Bank University.

Big thanks to LSE Generate, the SimVenture Team and Seajam Moths for supporting the Startup Survival Podcast.

Find Guest details and all Reference Sources

The full podcast series together with additional materials, guest details and hyperlinks to all episode reference sources is available on Peter Harrington's Blog 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to Entrepreneurship'

Startup Survival Podcast

Series 3 – Episode 10 - Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:11):

Great to have your company. Thank you for tuning in you're listening to me, Peter Harrington. And this is your Startup Survival Podcast. With the help of my special guest Kajal Sanghrajka. I'm going to be putting the eminent and emotional subject of trust back under the microscope back under the microscope. Well, yes, because you may recall building trust in turbulent times was the title of episode three in series one a time when the UK was in its first lockdown figures show that early episode has been downloaded over 3,250 times and indication suggest over 13,000 streams. One of the key takeaway messages from that popular podcast is the fact trust is one of, if not the most important of subjects in business, according to acclaimed author, Steven, a coy trust is the glue of life. Without trust. We can't build personal or business relationships. And as I'll be showing, creating a trust-based relationship can take years, but it can be broken in seconds. Since that early podcast contains some worthy gems, I'll be referring to it throughout this episode.

Speaker 1 (01:31):

But if you've heard the show you'll know the insight from Harvard universities, Professor Frances Frei helped me to tease apart the three elements, the three fundamental building blocks of trust. I'll be talking again about these three important building blocks as we work through this show. And so, you know, I was also going to build on my hitchhiking story from that early episode and share the day the legendary Welch rugby player. Sir, Gareth Edwards stopped to offer me a Mercedes lift when I was traveling in Wales, but that stand out thumbs out story with sir, Gareth is getting a temporary thumbs down for justifiable reason. You see last weekend, we had a couple of guests stay and one was called David. Now David is only six months old, but shortly after meeting him, I had a bit of an epiphany. I realized I had to include him on this show. Well, why? Well, even at the tender age of six months, David is at the heart of a life changing project that is all about trust. And so, before I introduce Kajal Sanghrajka, sit back and take a moment so I can share David's story with you.

Speaker 1 (02:56):

Now, you're probably wondering how someone who has been on this planet for only six months can be changing the lives of others. Well, the, the truth is David is not someone. David is some dog or, or rather some puppy. David is a six month old puppy who is on a two year training program that if all goes well, we'll see him become a fully trained guide dog for the blind. And whilst Dave's curiosity sent him exploring every nook and cranny of our conservatory, Rick, his owner and long-time friend of mine shared the details of what it's like to be responsible for a future guide dog. Rick explained that the guide dogs for the blind association actively recruits volunteer puppy raisers like himself for Rick and his partner. David is their third puppy guide dog. And together they have full responsibility for him for up to 18 months critically. They don't just provide a home, but have to follow a regularly monitored and consistent program. That includes training assessment and communication. There's even a carefully prepared diet and a detailed written online curriculum, which Rick says he's very keen to follow because the most important outcome is handing back a dog that is best prepared for the job. So, will David be ready to guide at the end of his 18 months? I asked, well, Rick went on to assure me that even if David gets the green light at handover, he still has to pass an intensive four-month training program and then complete work with the intended owner. Clearly David has a lot in front of him, but there really is only one yardstick that will determine ultimate success. Following two years of work conditioning and training, whoever becomes David's owner has to be able to trust him implicitly.

Speaker 1 (04:55):

The point here is the fact meaningful trust takes a long time to build. And at the heart of a trusted relationship is the key issue of behavioural consistency. Rick said all, all their work with David is designed to encourage and train him to respond and behave dependably so that important habits become instinctive training. David necessarily means engaging him in a whole variety of different situations. Rick talked about the use of consistent and clear commands or cues as they are now called, which are used to communicate with the puppy. I have to say throughout the weekend, David displayed incredibly impressive attentiveness and intelligence, and only occasionally did he fail to respond to a cue actions, speak louder than words. Rick said, Riley, and that's a subject I will definitely be returning to later.

Speaker 1 (05:53):

Bringing David onto this audio stage early helps to fix the spotlight on the fact, there are very few shortcuts when developing trust-based relationships. And that's a key reason. Startup ventures take time to build entrepreneurs in too much of a hurry. Often become unstuck. Now David will be referenced again as we track along this trail of trust, but for now it's time for the imaginary red carpet to be laid bright lights, to be shine, and the green door to open. As I need to welcome our special guest Kajal Sanghrajka onto the show, passionate about supporting the growth of early to mid-stage businesses. Kajal is an experienced entrepreneur keynote speaker in demand and advisor to many around the world. Kajal is the founder and director of growth hub global and has done and continues to do a huge amount of work with female entrepreneurs. And since I want to talk to her about the issue of trust and then focus that lens on women in business, she is the ideal guest for this show. Kajal Sanghrajka, welcome to the Startup Survival Podcast.

Speaker 2 (07:06):

Thank you, Peter. Good to be here

Speaker 1 (07:08):

Now, Kajal, you, you currently work with a, a range of startup founders and groups in different parts of the world and have a rich entrepreneurship background. Can you share the nature of the work you do?

Speaker 2 (07:21):

The journey to, to where we are today started with the corporate world, really, which is the first of three acts of my career. I worked at Deloitte focusing on strategy finance and operations took that experience packed three suitcase and moved to New York and did an MBA at Columbia University. And it was really there that I caught the entrepreneurial bug and spent my MBA taking courses on entrepreneurship, launching my first business. And also co-founding the university's first incubator for alumni entrepreneurs. This was across industries. We built an ecosystem and network that supported about 30 ventures grow of which at least 50% were women. So that was really the first experience. The second I used all of that knowledge and went back to Europe and supported European companies who wanted to grow into the us market. I had the experience of successes and failures and worked primarily within enterprise and artificial intelligence leading strategic growth for a European company.

Speaker 2 (08:32):

And then later as a COO at a foundation within artificial intelligence as well, more recently over the last couple of years, I returned to UK and reconnected with the LSC, which is, which is where I did my undergraduate and designed and launched two accelerator program that supported about 33 ventures from across eight universities. Again, across industries and we focused on three pillars which were up to date, enterprise education access to all the services you, you would need to run a business and also the soft and hard skills training for both men and women that wasn't female founders only. But through that experience, there was a ton of observations, which I took away and really felt that female founders do need to be nurtured differently. And so, design programs within that, within those two accelerators to help female founders grow their businesses.

Speaker 1 (09:39):

Ah-Huh. So, if your entrepreneurial journey began with your, your flight out to New York, how long have you been working in this space?

Speaker 2 (09:47):

I would say more than 10 years now. So, from the transition from the corporate world to then launching my own business and following the entrepreneurial path has been over 10 years. So, I I've not had a boss or a, a pay check for more than 10 years now.

Speaker 1 (10:07):

Ah, okay. And, and how many people do you think you've worked with over the past decade?

Speaker 2 (10:11):

I would say over a thousand not just through one-to-one mentor and advisory, but also talks or workshops I've given advisory consulting projects, I would say over a thousand.

Speaker 1 (10:27):

Uhhuh. And since I'll be asking about your support for female founders, what percentage of the people with whom you work or have worked have been women?

Speaker 2 (10:36):

So I have not calculated this in an Excel spreadsheet, but I would estimate at least 50%

Speaker 1 (10:46):

As you Kajal, as you know, building any business is about building relationships or rather trust based relationships for people who are at or near the start line of their entrepreneurial journey. Can you share your thoughts on the issue of trust and why this issue matters so much in business?

Speaker 2 (11:03):

I see trust as the confidence and the ability of that person in the business context, confidence in their ability to execute as you and I both know the start of a business, you have minimal information. So, there's a variety of different gut sources of information, data, but primarily it's the trust in that founder to be able to go out and attack potentially a, a new market category a path that's never really been done before. And that requires a much higher level of trust than most careers, especially if you are seeking funding for, for going after that business and going after that market.

Speaker 1 (11:49):

Uhhuh and out of interest, given the turbulence and of the last two pandemic years, do you think circumstances have required startups to work and think more deeply about trust and, and being trustworthy?

Speaker 2 (12:03):

The way I've seen this manifested during the pandemic is when we are all working remotely, there's a lot more avenues for misinterpretation, for misconceptions. You don't have the face-to-face contact. You don't, can't read the body language, that emotional intelligence that you would typically have in a room and within a team is lacking online. I don't think there's a gender disparity there. I think that's startups in general, really trying to build that culture online and proxies for that in the absence of being able to see a person, have the eye contact and build the trust that you would or ordinarily in person, it's certainly more difficult to do on a zoom call than it is in a room.

Speaker 1 (12:52):

Yes, yes. As someone who has used zoom extensively, I fully endorse those points, but for anyone listening card, Joel, who has never worked in an office or never started their own business, can you explain a bit more about how and why it is easier to build bonds of trust with people when you are actually with them as opposed to, you know, being seen on a computer screen?

Speaker 2 (13:15):

Well, I'll give you just an example. If, if you are running a project and you have a kick-off meeting, usually if you're in a room, you'll talk about the weather or sport for the first 10 minutes, you've got that time to build a certain level of rapport, which automatically builds trust. Whereas on zoom calls, you have a one hour meeting each week and you are pushed for time, and you consolidate everything the, the time to build that rapport, to have those conversations that would ordinarily build trust are lost in between. You can't see the person, you can't hear the person again, those are human cues for building trust. You can't see someone's emotional reaction when you've sent an email or when you've done something on slack. It, it becomes very, very challenging to try and consolidate and do that on zoom. And a lot of the literature has also said this with managers, you are a founder and managing a team of five. There's a lot more compensation energy to build that trust online than you would have in a room because you don't have those moments of, of serendipity or, you know, banal conversation. If I may call it that, to build that level of trust and that gut instinct that you have about a person and a team and a culture.

Speaker 1 (14:35):

Ah, now that's fascinating. So are you saying there's a kind of two speed relationship going on online meetings? Give us great efficiencies because there's no travel required, but on the flip side, the lack of in person contact slows down the building of deeper trust-based relationships.

Speaker 2 (14:53):

Yeah. I would say that you are, you are primed more for efficiency and everybody talks about how you're so much more efficient. You don't have to commute. You don't have, you know, the coffee chit chat, but the coffee chit chat is often what helps you build the trust and the culture within the team. Now, I'm not saying I'm an advocate for everybody going back to the office full time, five days a week. I think that's a model that, that, that also doesn't work. But I do think that the FaceTime, especially early on in the founder's journey, when you're forming those teams, that FaceTime is quite critical.

Speaker 1 (15:27):

And out of interest card, Joel, when you meet people for the first time in business, what do you look for? What are the tell-tale signs of trust that, that help to build a relationship?

Speaker 2 (15:38):

It's really one main marker. I would say that stands out amongst everything is, is, do they keep their word? If they said they're going to deliver something, will they deliver? And if they can't do they communicate that as soon as possible? There's a saying called my word is my bond. I think it's actually the London stock exchange is motto. And I really, really believe in that and play by that because I think in business, that is the way that you build trust competence. Of course, if, if the person's competent, they're skilled, but by and large, when I hire, when I build teams, when I observe teams, it's people sticking to what they say they'll do. So that the, the words are followed by actions.

Speaker 1 (16:23):

Yeah. Thanks Kajal. And that fits perfectly with the piece earlier, when I talked about Rick and his puppy, David actions always speak louder than words. When people don't do what they say they're going to do, it's easy to lose faith in them. And, and that's a note for a top tip client, at least in the UK that lose trust in a supplier, you know, they rarely communicate the lost faith verbally. They just stop using the supplier. Have you any further thoughts on this, this matter of a startups casual?

Speaker 2 (16:56):

So consistency is something that I would always look for and you need that in a startup. You need that reliability. Yes, it's, it's chaotic and things change, and you pivot, but the best people in the team would always deliver consistently and communicate consistently. So I think what erodes trust over time is when you don't see that consistency and there are constantly excuses made for things and listen, none of us are perfect, me included. I can slip up on, on timing of things, but again, that comes down to communication, which I, I have observed that women tend to be better at and tend to be more mindful of communicating where they are with something this, this isn't stereotyping, but it's just a, a skillset that I do believe women can be stronger at.

Speaker 1 (17:51):

Yeah. That's great. Kajal. And thanks for highlighting the critical subject of communication. And for the record, I agree with you in my business experience, women definitely tend to be better communicators than men now, before we move on to the subject of trust and female founders, I have one last question for you on the issue of communication. And it concerns the sharing of difficult news over the years, I've lost count of the number of times, people who, who needed to communicate a project delay or serious business issue have held off sharing information. And as a result, my trust and faith in them has diminished. Why does this happen? And, and what's your advice to founders.

Speaker 2 (18:31):

This is something that I think can be avoided because most people don't want to deliver bad news. So, if you are a founder and a manager, you can build mechanisms to give people safe spaces to say that. So, this is a classic, you know, you can use a classic project management framework, you have risks, you have mitigations, you have deadlines and timelines. You give people that chance every week to say, Hey, this is too much. I'm not going to be able to deliver this. And that's where I think you can prevent these issues. If people can't adhere to it within that mechanism, then you have problems, but there's always a way you can create an environment to avoid that. Because I do think human nature is such that nobody wants to deliver bad news, of course. And you might wait to the last minute before you deliver it, but, but there's ways that you can mitigate against that in a business and in any environment. Really?

Speaker 1 (19:31):

Yeah. And, and finally, have you ever heard of a training course casual that showed people how to share rather than dwell on bad news?

Speaker 2 (19:39):

No, but it I'd go on.

Speaker 1 (19:47):

As I mentioned in the introduction, I want to highlight again, the great work by Harvard professor Frances Frei, who is a leading research specialist in the world of trust on her Ted talk, professor fry breaks down trust into three key areas, two of which I'll cover now authenticity and being our authentic self is the first key ingredient. When it comes to building trust. This links with the consistency message card has just given us and the training David received from his owner, Rick being our authentic self should mean we are consistent and honest with others. And, and, and think of it the other way, when we find ourselves second guessing someone else's behaviour, because they are inconsistent. It's like treading on eggshells and trust is very difficult to build. If the second guessing continues, these relationships typically fail. The second area of trust that professor fry talks about is logic rigor.

Speaker 1 (20:49):

And this issue is particularly relevant for startups presenting a case or pitching for business or, or to investors. If a presentation is clear, evidenced and easy to understand and follow listeners will appreciate the logic rigor and are much more likely to trust with both their minds and ultimately their pockets. But if a presentation leaves people questioning the logic rigor of what they've heard, they are much less likely to trust. Now, in my experience, startups can think they are presenting their business case with clear logic rigor, but unfortunately, they are often too far ahead of their audience as a result, their message and the potential bond of trust is lost. Now, I, I, I could say more, but I'm, I'm beginning to stray. So, to learn about this subject, I recommend you read the, the brilliant book called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, and look up the fabulous topic, which they label the curse of knowledge. Now, a bit later, I'll come onto the third and what Professor Fry considers to be the most important strand of trust. But before I share that gem, let's get back to Kajal Sanghrajka, because I want her thoughts on the core topic of this episode, which concerns, trust and female founders, Cardel. You've worked with many accelerator groups and women in business when it comes to trust, what do you find are the common topics that women talk about or encounter?

Speaker 2 (22:21):

So, Peter, I wanna go back to the question you asked me, which is, what do you think trust is? So, if I take that thread, which is my definition is the confidence and the ability of that founder to execute the difference are much less about customers and society. The difference comes down to capital disparities. And by that, I mean, the topics that are talked about is that women and men will experience different questioning will experience different reactions when they go to seek investment. And that's where the trust differential I think comes in, and this actually can be supported by quite a bit of research. There's a report I read called the trillion-dollar blind spot, which Morgan Stanley did. And they talk about women on average are less capitalized to begin with. So, they'll have $75,000 for their business. A male own business will have 135,000. When you go out to seek capital if you are a woman or a person of colour, you have to de-risk your business before you get investments. And this is a quote bite by someone called Klein, who, who supports investment for underrepresented founders. And I've found that experience replicated. When I talk to female founders, they have to derisk their investment show a lot more traction show, a lot higher benchmarks in some cases than their male counterparts.

Speaker 1 (23:56):

So, so why is this happening? What are the drivers?

Speaker 2 (23:59):

Well, one driver is just the fact that the investment community isn't reflective of the broader gender diversity and ethnic diversity that we have in the entrepreneurial community. And, and that is changing. I'm pleased to say, but there's still a long way to go. So, there's inherent bio biases there, but there are a broad range of cultural, systemic historical factors that contribute to that disparity and that have evolved over time and are still perpetuated today. So, the first one, I mentioned the lack of gender and racial diversity in the investment community. There's the reliance on well-established social networks. So, you are gonna invest in people that look and talk like you again, these, these are not things that are new, but that manifests itself into male and female founders being treated differently and being asked different questions.

Speaker 1 (24:57):

Okay. So, to clarify, Cardel, are there a lot of white men out there who want to invest in businesses?

Speaker 2 (25:03):

Yeah, I mean, in the us, I, I can speak to some statistics and 92% of the investment community are white male. And the data suggests that firms invest in white men based on potential that women and people of colour get investment based on demonstrated performance. Now, if you think about that difference, imagine the kinds of questions you're gonna get and the kind of standards and benchmarks you're gonna be held to as a female founder versus a male founder. There was also some really interesting data that there's a company called DocSend that tracked investment, that male teams got, male and female mixed teams got, and female teams got, so guess which one got the least.

Speaker 1 (25:48):

Oh, well, I'd imagine it's the women.

Speaker 2 (25:50):

Yeah. The all female teams almost half as much. The mix teams actually got the most because that's when I think both of both of those disparities almost cancel out or the biases can cancel out and you can actually enhance the natural traits of both genders. I don't know the specific reasons, but, but the data was really interesting on that.

Speaker 1 (26:14):

So are you suggesting Kajal and, and I'm not suggesting for a moment, are you suggesting that wise founding teams seek to be diverse in their makeup?

Speaker 2 (26:23):

No. I can't say that I'm suggesting that based on, but based on this one data survey, but it is interesting to see the difference in funding if you are all female or all male. So there are still, there's still more work to be done. Then this was early-stage companies. You can have a look at They actually released the report, I believe last year. So, I think to infer any conclusions from that, it is still a little early, but there is something to be said around the fact that the all-female and all male had such a massive disparity. And I think that points to some of the reasons that I described earlier

Speaker 1 (27:05):

Out of interest Cardel. Why do you think the all male teams perform less well?

Speaker 2 (27:09):

Do you mean not perform as well as the mix teams?

Speaker 1 (27:13):

Yes, that's that's right.

Speaker 2 (27:15):

No, I don't, I don't actually have the specifics on that, but it, it just seemed that, that the male and female combination was more effective overall when you're going into a room because we do naturally have different traits. And I think that complimentary factor really works when you go in a room, which does make a lot of sense. There's a lot of research to say that diversity in, in boardrooms and teams leads you to better results. So that's, that's an element of diversity, right? If you have two different genders in a room, if you have two different races in the room you have two different sets of backgrounds, experiences that you can point to. So, it's, it's that where I think it is the difference in the data

Speaker 1 (28:02):

Card based on your research and your considerable experience in this field. Is there any advice about the issue of trust that you might offer a woman or team of women who are preparing to pitch their idea or business to investors?

Speaker 2 (28:17):

I would say that men and women operate differently in the journey when they approach the fundraising from, from, from my experience and the founders that I've worked with. I, I obviously that's a sample set, but when I coach female founders, I really emphasize the fact that this is not formulaic. This is humans. We're dealing with humans, we're dealing with emotions, we're dealing with psychology. This isn't just about the numbers, because typically they've done their research, they're superstars in every sense, they've got the numbers, but where things don't mirror, what the men do is the relationship building side and the confidence building side. So how are you building relationships with investors before you go into a room, how are you really promoting what you do and making sure your voice is heard in the market? I do think there's a difference there in the way men and women approach that I think men can be more vocal from what I've seen.

Speaker 2 (29:26):

And so, one of the courses we did was on personal branding because the women were often, the pictures were fantastic. They were well researched, but it was when it came to actually really showing and telling what you are doing. They were more understated in what they did. So, when you think about the funding equation, there's so many different data points that go into that and the business and the numbers is just one part. People going back to trust, people need to have confidence in you as the founder to execute that. So, you really have to think about what conveys that confidence the best way. And often this is not academic, right? This is, this is I'm gonna be building a business with you as your investor. There has to be a chemistry fit. There has to be confidence built from other gut points. Where have, where else have I heard of you? And that's where the social network bias comes in because people will fund people. They've heard of which are in these echo chambers of their own social networks. So you have to make that effort to go into those networks, be visible, be heard as much as your male counterparts are. And that that often is not considered enough in the, in the fundraising equation.

Speaker 1 (30:47):

Okay. And in terms of investor trust in men and women, have you any evidence to suggest whether it's a conscious or unconscious bias?

Speaker 2 (30:56):

It, it, every different research report you read will say conscious or unconscious, a lot of this is unconscious. And I think the investment community is moving to surface those unconscious biases. There's a lot more awareness now there's a lot more being done, but if you, if you, that report that I point to, again, the trillion dollar blind spot of their own admission, they acknowledge these things, but then the investment record, isn't, there's not significant change. You will go with what you are more comfortable with, and that's why you know, there's always a saying that women have to be twice as good. And if you're a woman of colour, there's another layer on there. So that's not untrue, but it's really unpicking and recognizes where, where those unconscious biases are. And at what points in the journey is it that not as many women are getting into the room in the first place, because they don't have the warm introductions that some of those, you know, old boys social networks have is it that when they get in the room, they're held to much higher standards, that there's lots of different things to unpack through that whole journey.

Speaker 2 (32:06):

But let me go back to my experience, which is when I talk to female founders in my own experience, fundraising, I, their, the reactions to them are different. And that becomes almost self-fulfilling. You start to question why you are being asked and extra 10 questions. When someone else can go in with a PowerPoint and walk out with a check, so that becomes something that you internalize. And so it's not, I always say to the female, you don't have to fix yourself. You have to understand the environment you're operating and adapt to that. Because it is gonna be slow to change, but just understand it in a way and look at your own strengths and how you can play into that environment. It will be so to change, it is changing, but it's not, you, you have to fix.

Speaker 1 (33:00):

It's not you, you have to fix car. I really like that. Thank you. Kajal, I'd like to move on. And if I may look at the issue of female founders and their journey to build trust with customers and wider society, do you think this process is more difficult for women compared to men.

Speaker 2 (33:24):

On customer side? No, I, I don't believe there's a massive difference in women gaining the trust of their customers. They know they know their markets inside out the experience I've had. They don't have a problem selling, getting into the room of, of closing the deals in society. I mean, if we talk about media, I think that's a different conversation, but for me, and what I've observed, it really comes back again to more, the investing landscape customers in society are more reflective of, of just more gender diverse population, obviously. So, I, I don't think that that the struggle is there, but we can look at Amanda blank case recently, the CEO of Aviva, she was in a, in a public AGM, and she was told she wasn't the man for the job by shareholders. So again, this is the invest goes back to the investment community and, and where those decision makers are, is not reflective of, of society.

Speaker 2 (34:26):

So that's the conversation I constantly have with founders is, is when it comes to getting funding. And then actually when it comes to growing the company and looking at the board and as they get more senior there's, there's further issues, which Manda blank actually pointed to. She said the I've gotten so used to the microaggressions that it's become numb. And it's the same with female founders as they scale and build their companies at different points, they will face these microaggressions potentially from board advisors, potentially from investors. And, and sometimes they're pushed out their own companies when they shouldn't be again, I'm not saying that that experience is only for women, but it seems that as Amanda Blank pointed out, the more senior she got, the more those microaggressions played out because the more senior you get, the less reflective it is, and the less diverse it is of, of society as a whole.

Speaker 1 (35:24):

Oh, in this day and age it staggers and saddens me that sexism in the workplace, or rather the large corporate workplace is still so avert. But, but coming back to the issue of women, working with their customers, do you think, or have any evidence to suggest that they are better than men building, trusted client relationships.

Speaker 2 (35:44):

That's a subjective judgment to make, but I can say from my own experience, when building the accelerators, I was constantly procuring and seeking talent to come and deliver different parts of the accelerator. And I will say that the experience I had with was that the communication was far better from the women in terms of what would be delivered, what would be delivered by when more information on upfront and up front. And that communication was always, always very clear. So, I do think in some cases there is an advantage because that communication is, is, is constant and consistent throughout that sales cycle. So that, that to me is something to embrace. And often when we did soft skills training and hard skills, there was a massive difference in adoption. And the, the attention that was paid to soft skills training by women versus men, women were much more open to the soft skills side of entrepreneurship. And whereas the men tended towards the, the harder skills and the truth is, you know, that there shouldn't be a bias there because both are equally as important. And I would say soft skills over time become even more important than the hard skills. So, so yes, in, in some cases I saw that communication had, and that skill to communicate has, has a massive advantage when you are going out to market and setting.

Speaker 1 (37:16):

Yeah, I, I, I'm gonna agree with you again, Cardel in all my experience of working in small businesses, the best communicators and best users of soft skills are women. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of men who communicate in a highly effective way, but on balance for me, you know, women are better. And penny for your thoughts here too Cardel, why do you think this is the case?

Speaker 2 (37:38):

I mean, there's, there's, there's one part of this, which is, is genetic and evolution over time. We are obviously nurturers from years and thousands of years of evolution of biology. So, so there is that tendency to communicate more to nurture something differently. Again, you know, when you, when you think about diversity, it's not a question of better or worse. It's a question of how do you really understand that you have that skill, that it's a strength and really hone it to the business in the market that you're trying to build. And this is what I really try to hit home with my female founders, that, that communication, that empathy, that strength and soft skills is not a weakness. You don't have to be aggressive. You don't have to be formulaic. You can do things in a way that's natural to you and it can work exceptionally well.

Speaker 2 (38:39):

So that, that, to me, it's not the, the question of better or worse, it's own your own strengths, emphasize that and make your voice heard in that arena so that you can, you know, educate the market in that way. There is a different way to sell. There is a different way to, to lead. We, we've all seen studies on, on empathy and leadership and how important that is. That is a often a more natural skillset that women have. But, but somewhere on along the way that exception is that it's been a weakness. And that perception is what I think holds women back from embracing that as a natural strength.

Speaker 1 (39:25):

Kajal has just done me a huge favour because her insight connects with professor Francis fries, third and final element of trust. Earlier, I talked about the two issues of authenticity and logic rigor, but the Trinity is made complete with the addition of empathy as shared in episode seven in this series, empathy and empathizing builds trust because it helps us to understand others. Empathy allows people to put themselves in the shoes that others wear and develop a deeper appreciation for what they're saying and doing in many ways, this connects with the renowned thinking of Simon Sinek and his reasoning for starting with why the more we understand why people and why businesses do things, the more we are able to understand empathize and ultimately trust them. Frances Frei is particularly fond of empathy and says that of the three elements that makeup trust empathy is the most important. But she also says that if any of the three elements is missing, when seeking to build a new relationship, trust is threatened. Anyhow, the only thing threatening this podcast is the clock. As I'm aware, I only have a little time left to quiz my special guest Kajal Sanghrajka. You mentioned the word confidence earlier, and I'm keen to hear your thoughts as to why men and women in exactly the same starting place in business can display different levels of confidence and thus may build trust at different speeds.

Speaker 2 (41:02):

I wanna bring in imposter syndrome here, because this is, this is where it's often talked about, and it's often talked about in the context of women. So, and this has a bearing on, on what you just described as are me, more confident? So, imposter syndrome was actually coined by psychologists in, in 1978 and it focused on high achieving women. And they said that despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience imposter phenomenon persist in believing they're not bright and have fooled, anyone who thinks otherwise. So, I just wanted to just state that that was the original Genesis behind it, but the actual definition beyond then it didn't take account of the environment in which we operate in and all the systemic biases that we are all exposed to. So it is actually broadly defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.

Speaker 2 (41:59):

And it disproportionately affects high achieving people that can be a man or a woman. Now, I don't believe that women are less confident. I think that the environments that we operate in need to change to better understand the strengths and the weaknesses we have and adapt to that. But it goes back to my, my point that the issue isn't with the women themselves, it's the persistent bias and how they're treated and reacted to. I don't believe they're less confident, but obviously if you have experienced our experience, where you question more, you're asked to de-risk your business more, you get less capital with the same kind of credentials you are going to operate in a different way and be more cautious, but naturally and inherently do I think we're less confident? No.

Speaker 1 (42:48):

So, do you think female founders should trust themselves more?

Speaker 2 (42:53):

I think it's more to do with understanding the environment and being really real about the, where, where the world is. We have a long way to go. We've made some strides. Yes. I think all of us have men and women ha have a place where you have to trust yourself more, especially if you're gonna go and run a business, but I really wanna get away from this narrative that it's about fixing you and what you need to do. It's more about understand the environment that you're operating, recognize what it rewards and what it doesn't finding, the, the right allies around you being much more strategic and savvier in how you approach for example, fundraising how you approach the kind of market you're attacking. And as we described earlier, how will you sell differently to embrace what you have? It, it's, it's really challenging when women constantly hear, you have to trust yourself more. You have to be more confident. I say that that's inherently there. You just need to manifest this differently and just understand the realities of the market that we're operating in. And, and certainly seek role models, seek people who understand and value those strengths. You know, don't go to environments, which are, the odds are completely stacked against you if you are able to, but that's, that's the advice I would give not to say trust yourself more and believe in yourself more and be more confident.

Speaker 1 (44:25):

God. Well, that's fantastic. And in many ways you've probably answered my last question, which is to ask if you have any final message or piece of advice for female founders.

Speaker 2 (44:34):

Yeah, I think I would just emphasize, you know, the message I give to female founders is embrace the natural strengths that you have a lot of these things that you need to run. A business are inherently there. They know their markets, they've done the research, but really, really try to understand the environment that you operate in. You just need to make your voice heard in a different way and look at the environment in a, in a much more strategic way to say, how can you position your strengths in that environment?

Speaker 1 (45:10):

That's great. Kajal. Thank you. Now, as listeners know, by now, before winding up an interview, I always ask guests, if they have a recommended read resource or top tip, they would like to share.

Speaker 2 (45:24):

Yes, I would. That, there's two reports that I read recently that really illuminated a number of things within the female founder journey. One is A Trillion-Dollar Blind Spot, which was published by Morgan Stanley. And the second one is a report called the Entitlement Gap by the Female Lead. Both those reports echo what, what I've said around the environment that, that we're operating in and taking away these labels from ourselves is less confident or ha only having only women having imposter syndrome, et cetera. So that those, those are the two resources, which I'd really recommend everybody to read.

Speaker 1 (46:06):

Kajal. Thank you so much for being such a knowledgeable, splendid and special guest here on the Startup Survival Podcast. It has been a, a real pleasure to be able to chat with you and hear your deep insights on the subject of trust. Especially when looking at the subject through the lens of female founders.

Speaker 2 (46:27):

Thank you, Peter. Great to be here and, and share this conversation and the insights. And I look forward to the next episode.

Speaker 1 (46:40):

Well, there you go. My hope is that casual's experience and take on these complex subjects has helped to clarify things for you. So, you know, together with her team Cardel is in the process of launching a new business and entrepreneurship support company. And you can find all details at That's beta B E T A. I'm also aware Kajal is keen to get feedback on the website and particularly the homepage. So why not pay a visit and send her a note with your thoughts and whilst I'm on the subject to recommending sites, you can also learn more about Professor Frances Frei by Googling and watching her 2018 Ted talk all about trust.

Speaker 1 (47:32):

So that just about wraps everything up. You should know, episode 11, the penultimate show in this series will be published on Thursday, the 16th of June. I'm going to be joined by the globetrotting and award winning entrepreneur Munir Mamujee, who will be talking to me about the heartening subject of pride. I really hope you can tune into my chat with Munir once again, Duncan, Silla thank you for all your production and editorial support. And of course, let's recognize our special guest Kajal who has lifted the lid on trust and helped us to peer in and consider some of the deeper issues. All of which allows us to further our own ambitions and build better relationships. Finally, at a future point, I plan to update you on David, the dog's progress and how all work done by the guide dogs for the blind association and volunteering puppy raises like Rick secure, that vital relationship of trust. So, before we finish, don't forget your feedback is always welcomed. Share what you really like about this podcast and let me know what needs to be improved and whatever your listening channel of preference. Please remember to rate, review and subscribe. I really hope and trust this episode has been valuable. My name's Peter Harrington, and this has been your Simventure sponsored Startup Survival Podcast. Go well, stay safe