Reality Shows We Actually Want To Watch: Female Entrepreneurs Duke It Out
5:15 pm, April 25th | by Meredith Lepore
When women are thrown in a room and then filmed for reality television, things can get pretty crazy. Even if there isn’t a designated competition they are supposed to be participating in, one automatically forms regardless. On the Real Housewives of Insert City, the cast competes on everything from who has the most money to friendships to who has the most important charity (which entirely defeats the purpose). Shows where women compete for love are even worse. Women degrade themselves over a mediocre guy who promises them the world (BECAUSE HE IS ON CAMERA). Even on cooking, modeling and adventure competition shows, the women are often portrayed as catty and crazy while the guys are just looked at as competitive.
But when I heard there would be a reality competition show for female entrepreneurs, I reconsidered my hatred of the genre. Because unlike shows about modeling or just being rich, these contestants will actually be building and creating amazing projects and companies. The series is the brainchild of 44 Blue Productions and Jesse Draper, creator and host of the online business talk show The Valley Girl Show. The reality show will be called What Women Really Want and the hope is to go into production this fall.
Will this be a bunch of women competing in a room? Yes. But will it be different than other reality competition shows with women? Absolutely. First of all, there has never been a more exciting time to be a female entrepreneur, Draper said in an exclusive interview with The Jane Dough. And she should know, considering she is one and interviews them on a daily basis (including the female founders of TheSkimm, Sheryl Sandberg and Autumn Reeser.)
“It could not be a better time for a female entrepreneur show. It is just going to be fantastic,” she said. She added that Sandberg’s Lean In movement has also contributed to this being the perfect time for a show like this. Draper’s Valley Girl show will also be a television series as part of this development deal.
The number of women starting tech companies nationally has doubled the past three years, according to an informal poll by Women 2.0. Advances in technology, lower infrastructure costs and ample angel investing have made it easier to launch an early-stage company, says Leah Busque, CEO of TaskRabbit, an eBay of sorts for odd jobs. Newer technologies, such as cloud computing, reduce infrastructure costs. And coding isn’t as onerous as it once was. Those changes have allowed entrepreneurs to build products faster and land funding sooner. This has led to all but two of the 19 U.S. high-tech IPOs in 2009 having at least one female officer. Compare that with 1988, when only 4% of the 134 firms that went public in the U.S. had women in top management spots.
A show like this could help female entrepreneurs, especially if it focuses more on the actual product building and business side (which was the problem with Bravo’s Start-Ups: Silicon Valley.) According to recent research from The University of New Hampshire Center for Venture Research, only 8.9% of all proposals presented to angel investor organizations are put forth by women. Men and women tend to seek out investors of the same gender which automatically puts women at a disadvantage since most investors are men. According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, data shows that while about 41% of private companies in the U.S. are owned by women, only 3-5% of them get venture capital funding.
We are seeing more and more female entrepreneurs spring up every day, and women make up 31% of business school students in 2012 (up from 26% a decade ago) and earned 18 percent of all computer and information sciences degrees in 2008, but the venture capitalists who are actually investing their money in these companies are still very much a boys’ club. According to The Diana Project, only 10% of VCs are female. In Noah Davis’s article for The Verge he noted that “Money men look for people who are a younger, better, smarter version of themselves. It’s human nature. The typical funder is an old, straight, white male, hence the typical fund-receiver is a young, straight, white, male.”
Draper couldn’t give us too much detail on the new show, but perhaps some of the competitions will focus on who can get the most investors on board. At the end of the day, selling your business is all about being a good saleswoman. Perhaps an episode will involve lessons on how to convince investors that just because your product is a so-called feminine one it doesn’t mean you are trapped in the pink ghetto. Or how to convince people that you won’t abandon the company if you decide to have a family. These are barriers female entrepreneurs often face.
Yes, people do tend to act a little crazy when they are on camera, but the purpose of a show like this is more worthwhile than, say, winning a modeling contract. I am not sure what the prize is for the show, but anything that goes towards advancing a young woman’s company will be amazing.