Immigrant perspectives: Women entrepreneurs on ‘microaggressions’ and biases

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Reetu Gupta, founder and CEO of Cirkled in, has 20 years of experience in corporate America. In addition to having an MBA and a master’s degree in engineering, Gupta has run a $500 million dollar product line and says she has proven that she can work her tail off. But when she stands in front of investors, she does not think they take her seriously.

“I do feel when it comes to being an entrepreneur, it certainly would have helped a tiny bit if I was not a woman of color from another country,” Gupta said.

In Part 2 of GeekWire’s series featuring foreign-born tech leaders and entrepreneurs, we spoke to women entrepreneurs about biases and microaggressions.

The video above is Part 2 of the Immigrant’s Journey video series. Click here to watch Part 1, and check back on Thursday, June 28, to watch Part 3.

The following are the immigrant women featured in Part 2:

Valentina Vitols Bello, angel investor at Pipeline Angels, which helps create capital for women and non-binary femme social entrepreneurs. Bello is originally from Venezuela, where she was a candidate for the Latin American Parliament and the House of Representatives of the State of Miranda. She is also an attorney and previously founded a startup called Love to Thank. As an angel investor, Bello focuses on supporting female entrepreneurs in the social impact space.

Reetu Gupta, founder and CEO of Cirkled in, a digital portfolio platform that allows students to showcase their accomplishments and helps colleges recruit candidates. Gupta was born and raised in India, where she started her career as an engineer. She came to the U.S. after being hired by ATT Wireless. Gupta spent 20 years in corporate America and had a variety of roles, from working as an engineer to running a $500 million product line. She has an MBA from the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

Nourah Yonous, founder and executive director of African Women Business Alliance, which helps black women — especially African women immigrants — start, grow, and scale small businesses through professional business development training, coaching, networking, and access to seed capital. Yonous is originally from Somalia and grew up in Tanzania. She has a decade of advocacy experience in global south feminism and gender activism and also works as a capacity building program manager at Nonprofit Assistance Center. Nourah holds bachelor’s degrees in political science, feminist studies and legal studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Mina Yoo, CEO of HEROCLIP, a consumer product company that aims to help people stay organized and keep their hands free. Yoo is originally from Korea and moved to the U.S. in 1991 before attending Brown University for college and later attending the University of Michigan to get a dual Ph.D. in sociology and business administration. She was previously a professor at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. Yoo also spent a couple of years in Palo Alto, California, researching immigrant entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Scroll down below to read a full transcript of the video.

Bello: It’s definitely difficult for women. It’s not an easy path when it comes to fundraising.

Yonous: These microaggressions happen all the time.

Yoo: Women entrepreneurs do have this extra hurdle.

Gupta: When it comes to being an entrepreneur, it certainly would have helped a tiny bit if I was not a woman of color from another country.

Yonous: Immediately when I came in this country, my identity shifted. Where I came from, I was known basically by my culture, my identity, my lineage, my language, and all that. And when I came here, I became just a woman of color.

Yoo: I was at this trade show a few months ago. I was there for two days, and in two different instances, people who came to our booth told me what a cute little Asian girl I was. And I was like, I have a dual Ph.D. I’m a mom. I have a business. I have two patents. And I just found that to be really abominable.

Bello: I’ve had the chance to sit down with many women entrepreneurs — some of them women of color, some of them immigrants — and it’s definitely been really complicated. Not only because they are women. It’s because they’re very questioned on their ability to be able to actually further companies beyond just being a small business.

Gupta: It took me forever to raise half a million dollars. Why? And I have 20 years of experience. I have a master’s in engineering. I have an MBA. I have run marketing and business development. I’ve run a $500 million product line. I can work my tail off. Why? … When you go in front of investors, they see a very different picture. When I walk in a room, they don’t see a hardcore business woman who can make hard decisions on a company and run a successful company and create a unicorn. They don’t see that. There’s a lot of stereotyping. They probably see a mom. They probably see a nanny. They probably see a maid.

Yonous: When it comes to black diaspora in general and when it comes to black women, we face both racism and sexism … We truly believe in them, in black women, when it comes to businesses. They are the growing population of entrepreneurs, and yet they get only 0.2 percent of venture capital funding and with that only 3 percent goes to women in general.

Bello: We need to not only band together as women. We also have to bring strategic allies to be part of this conversation.



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