Reading the most recent The State of Australian Startup Funding Report is a bit like Groundhog Day. It’s certainly not the artwork, which is delightfully unique! And it’s not that there was a market downturn affecting funding, which is disappointing but not the exact same news that we hear every year. The bit that’s on repeat is that the amount of total funding going to female-founded startups continues to be outrageously and infuriatingly low. The dial simply has not shifted, and “achieving funding equality remains a distant goal.”

Here we are again. Sigh.

As the Startup Funding Report highlights, in 2023, Australian startups founded by women secured just 4% of the $3.5 billion in funding. All-male teams continued to dominate, receiving 62% of the 413 investment deals, while all-female teams got 12%, and those with at least one female founder received 26%.

For a range of well-documented social, economic, historic and/or cultural reasons, women are also less likely to be the founder of a startup. However, the stark gender gap in Australian startup funding, and that it has not significantly shifted (and has in fact worsened), is staggering.

What about Women in Climate Tech? (There’s good news!)

When we zoom into the climate tech ecosystem through our own 2023 Australian Climate Tech Industry Report, there is some good news.

In terms of representation, across the 228 companies surveyed, female founder representation increased by 5% in the 12 months prior, almost 60% of climate tech companies had at least one female executive, 44% of companies have at least one female founder and 13% were solely female-founded. For context, according to a recent SBE/Deloitte report, 22% of all startups (not just climate tech tech) were founded by women.

There was also some positive news when it came to funding for female founders in climate tech. Of the surveyed companies, some 57% of the capital raised in the previous 12 months was by companies with at least one female founder ($315M). However, this figure was higher than anticipated because one female-founded company successfully raised a very large round.

The results were similar when it came to surveyed companies who have raised international capital to date. We should highlight again that this data is reflective of the 228 companies surveyed only.

So, why does this matter? Other than there being a moral imperative, we know that climate change impacts women differently to men, often more adversely. We also know that other underrepresented or minority groups are also more likely to be detrimentally affected by climate change, and that diversity cannot simply be measured by the number of women founders in the ecosystem. People of colour, gender diverse and First Nations representation is essential. We need more diversity in every way to truly improve global climate and societal outcomes.

Is there any other good news?

Yes! We have so many incredible women founders of climate tech companies in the Climate Salad community. So many in fact that we put them into one handy directory! View our Women in Climate Tech Founders here.

You can also find out more about some of our featured founders, including —

There are also a range of wonderful programs, accelerators and fellowships that support women in climate tech, STEM, business, investing, founding a company or to join a board. This is vital to reducing the barriers to entry at all levels.

There are also investors demanding change. Over 50 companies have pledged to openly share information about the number of female-led businesses they have assessed, evaluated, and financed. Spearheaded by Scale Investors, Alberts Investment, and Giant Leap, their objective is to enlist a minimum of 100 Australian firms in this initiative. Sharing this information publicly is a great start!

Regardless of next year’s International Women’s Day theme, we know that this message will need to be repeated. Loudly and clearly, by everybody: Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate progress.

A note on language: We recognise that sex and gender are different and that neither are binary. Most of the resources mentioned in this article referred to “female-founded” companies or “female founders”, so we’ve continued to use those terms in reference to that material. In some instances, we’ve tried to broaden the scope to “women”. It’s not perfect, and we recognise that more research is needed in women-identifying founders of startups, including climate tech.

Mar 8, 2024

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