“Women don’t need to be supported or strengthened. They are already strong. They just need access to funding for their initiatives,” Renee Welsh, CEO of Embed, replies when I ask her what men can do to help level the playing field.
Welsh faced the same struggles when she started ticketing and booking management start-up Booking Boss with her husband, Andy, in 2013. But she managed to overcome them. After years of hard work, Helix Leisure bought the start-up in 2017, a testament to Welsh’s ability to build and execute at a high level. As part of the acquisition, Welsh became the CEO of Embed, an integrated cloud-based business solution platform. She was a unicorn, one of the rare female CEOs in the family entertainment centre (FEC) sector. So, she made it a point to champion diversity and inclusion.
Today, half of Embed’s leadership team is female, a stark contrast to the rest of the industry ‒ 50 per cent of start-ups have no women on their leadership teams and only 17 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
“Raising capital is also harder for start-ups with female founders. There is a general apprehension that they are not good at running businesses,” says Welsh. She gives a startling statistic: female-led start-ups only secure around 2 per cent of overall investment capital and often have to tap on their friends and family to raise funds.
“It is also difficult for female founders to raise funds for their startups as there are few women decision makers in venture capital firms. Only about 12 per cent of decision makers at VC firms are women, and most firms still don’t have a single female partner, according to an analysis last year. When women venture capitalists decide, they’re twice as likely to invest in female founding teams,” says Welsh.
What baffles her is that these statistics do not reflect the reality – that women are just as capable as men in business. In America, female-owned businesses grow two times faster than the national average. “Female-led organisations are also more profitable, better performing, and have higher profit compared to male-led companies”, according to a 2019 report by S&P Global.
Welsh believes that women supporting other women is the only way that women can rise and step into their power. For a long time, many believed that a woman had to sacrifice family for their careers and vice versa. Welsh opines women can excel in more roles than one.
“Women are multi-dimensional; they have many roles in life – be it a female CEO, a fempreneur, a woman thought-leader, a mother, wife, sister, daughter – the list is endless.”
Embed CEO Renee Welsh believes women can succeed in their personal and professional lives.
To push this forward, she recently co-founded Crone Queen with her colleague and Embed’s chief marketing officer, Sara Paz. The both of them called the organisation Crone Queen, in reference to the history of female leaders or ‘crowned ones’ being labeled as crones when patriarchal societies took hold in ancient times. Through this collective, Welsh wants to nurture and empower women through their different life stages, especially those in their 30s and above.
“We hope to connect women from all walks of life, all whom are queens in their own right. The aim is to build a community centred around wellness, healthy living philosophies, financial strength, and living their best lives,” says Welsh. “For this sisterhood, Crone Queen intends to produce cutting-edge content, plan pioneering and uplifting events, as well as introduce inspiring products.”
There’s still a lot more that companies can achieve at the senior executive level. But society’s progress in this area heartens Welsh.
“Today, I successfully lead a Chief Executive team with 50 per cent gender parity, something completely unheard of in the tech industry, and a model of what other companies aspire to achieve. I intend to play a more proactive role in mentoring, reverse mentoring, and inspiring other female leaders and women entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams.”