Lifestyle 02 April 2018
This is a great month to be reminded of the message that Spring brings to all of us — new beginnings.
We start the month with Mercury in retrograde in Aries. This reminds us that we need to take action towards creating closure, forgiveness, and the healing of old wounds or misunderstandings. It's also a great time to work on erasing debt and actually physically cleaning up your personal spaces. Get rid of things that you don't need. Pull up the dead plants and prepare your garden. You also must prepare your heart and your life just like a garden so the success and abundance can grow. On April 16th Mercury goes direct and is still in Aries barreling towards Uranus this month. You better be ready for your future because here it comes!
(March 21 - April 19)
“The mad scientist" … Happy Birthday Aries!
You are the first sign and get the zodiac year started. This is perfect, because you love anything new and different! This is a special spring for you with Mercury going direct in Aries on the 16th— and Uranus still hanging on in the Ram sign as well. What does this mean for you? You are the future right now. You will have glimpses of the trajectory of things. Let it simmer until April 16th, then start to write it down or talk about your ideas with trusted colleagues. Invent. Tinker. Plant things. Experiment. This is a creative time that will bear much fruit long into the future. There is more work than fun but it pays off.
April 29: Show your heart.
(April 20 - May 20)
“Peas and Carrots..."
I love that vintage Disney cartoon Ferdinand the Bull. Ferdinand is the epitome of Taurus— lazing around in a spring field of flowers. This is a perfect picture of you, except for one thing — you will have your laptop humming during this bucolic picnic. Taurus can be the laziest sign, as well as the hardest working sign, in the zodiac. This month, you — along with Capricorn — will be the latter version; cranking out the reports, art, spreadsheets, projects, or whatever you consider to be your work. Don't burn out or be too serious. Take breaks and stop to smell those roses.
April 25-26 : Spring clean and organize.
May 21- June 20
The first half of April you will probably be feeling the showers more than the flowers of spring. There are a lot of heavy influences right now, and your ruling planet Mercury is in retrograde in Aries until the 15th. You may feel down or depressed this month— which is very foreign territory to Geminis. This too shall pass. Exercise, creativity and meditation could be helpful for you. However, not thinking before you speak will not be helpful to you during this time. Your verbal governor is out of order until the 15th. Also, wear a helmet. I'm not joking. Mercury retrograde in Aries can make you more prone to head injuries!
April 27-28: Date night.
June 21- July 22
“I was dreamin' when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray." - Prince
Ok so things are tough right now. You have Aries and Saturn squares all over your chart. Mercury is in retrograde in Aries and Mars is conjunct Saturn in Capricorn. Let's just stop counting the strikes against you, shall we? Whenever someone is swimming in this many challenging aspects, I always have them ask “WWPD?" (What Would Prince Do?).
Party like it's 1999 of course! Especially with Neptune in Pisces and Venus in Taurus. These lovelies are handing our Cancer friends love, fun and illusion on a silver platter. You're welcome.
April 12-13: Make your first batch of cotton candy at home…or anything else pink and lovely that you fancy.
July 23- August 22
Your love-life may be a little contentious this month. You may feel like you keep hitting stubborn brick walls with your partner. Work may seem sluggish. You have many plans for expansion but they are stalled because of loads of boring but necessary tasks. It's time to focus on what's flowing in your life. Ideas. Visions. Inventions. Dreamy vistas of future life paths are laying out before you. Watch, listen and be dazzled. After April 15th, you should write it all down, make a vision board or make a speech about it.
April 23-24: Dress up and make your entrance.
August 23- September 22
“I'm not sure which is worse, intense feeling or the absence of it." - Margaret Atwood
This month is very productive, intense and focused for you. Until April 15th, you feel as if you are bailing water out of your boat but it keeps filling up. After mid-month, you begin to see more traction. While most signs are reeling from the Saturn-Mars conjunction, you are riding this bull like a pro. You are exhausted and drained from the challenge…but isn't it amazing how well you are handling this ride? I'm betting on you this month for the win. Also, look up at least a couple of times to notice all of the people that are smitten with you and want to take you out.
April 10-11: Buy a magic set.
September 23- October 22.
“Don't fall through the ice!"
Libras have a reputation for being “shallow". This is true for some Librans, but for most— it is less about being shallow, and more about their propensity for staying in their heads and out of their emotions regarding stressful situations. Sometimes for the water signs or earth signs, it is hard to connect with our Libra friends because of this trait. The emotional and physical signs experience the world so differently. This month, a Libra's ability to not be dragged down into the mire of negative stress and emotion is a beautiful gift. Keep tap dancing on the surface dear Librans, the storm will pass.
April 19-20: Speak another language.
(October 23- November 21)
“The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn't be a farmer." - Will Rogers
You are still in serious work mode this month— and this spring it is even more intense.
Just like the farmer in April, you are breaking your back — preparing the soil, getting rid of the dead plants from last season and planting seeds. When you look up after all of this hard work what do you see? A big patch of lifeless mud. No worries. I guarantee this will be one of your best crops ever. Your money, career, assets, lifestyle and anything else that you desire is going to grow like crazy. Just be patient…and fertilize.
April 21-22: be good to your spouse.
November 22- December 21
“People who see life as anything more than pure entertainment are missing the point." - George Carlin
Just like many of the other signs, there will be April showers for you this month, my dear Sagittarius. But never fear— things get brighter when Mercury in Aries leaves retrograde around the 15th. When you get your gift of gab back during the second half of the month, I suggest that you join the Cancers (see above) at their end of the world party and live it up! You could be the comedic entertainment. It's worth a try- I promise the food and drink will be spectacular …it's a Cancer's home.
April 19-20: dance by yourself.
(December 22- January 19)
“If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm." - Frank Lane
This is a particularly yucky Mercury in retrograde for you. Please wear a helmet, slow down, wear your seatbelt, don't lose your temper, etc. After April 15th, things get so much better — and not just because more than 50% of all Capricorns are accountants and tax season is finally over. The bigger reason is that so many huge transits are in your sign right now. It's extremely intense and wreaking havoc on so many. Not you, my sweet Capricorn. Climbing steadily in harsh conditions is your natural habitat. I said earlier that I'm betting on Virgo to win— but you have a great shot at the podium as well. Isn't it fun when the nerds get to be the cool kids for a little while?
April 25-26: win at your spin class without even trying.
(January 20- February 18)
“The happy sidekick."
I'm still telling you to lean into your humor this month my Aquarius friends. Just like Libra (see above) your strength during this intense transit time is your ability to skim the surface of emotions and not be plowed under by the negativity of others. Look for those Capricorn or Virgo colleagues and ask if they need help — or ask them to help you. Let others lead, and try to laugh a lot. After April 15th you will be able to command attention again.
April 27-28: paint your toes a crazy color. Oh wait- they already are a crazy color…you're an Aquarius.
(February 19- March 20)
“A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work." - John Lubbock
Work and life are really good, it's just stressful! You internalize everything and make it emotional. Please “clean" your energy this month. Take salt baths. Make sure your get the workouts in. It's a lot to deal with right now, but none of it is bad for you. After April 15th, you will feel a big lift. The middle of the month will be great for your relationship and attraction. Take advice from those that you trust— you aren't seeing everything so clearly right now. Slow down and stop worrying.
April 2-4: good love.
7 Min Read
Amid the mainstream conversation about inclusion and justice in the workplace, otherwise known as #MeToo, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund considered how they can be more inclusive of the women, minority, and LGBTQ entrepreneurial communities.
Their solution? Ask the CEOs they currently fund to promise to hire senior-level employees from diverse backgrounds.
Lightspeed Venture Partners, a venture capital fund that has investments with blockbuster startups such as The Honest Company, Affirm, and HQ Trivia, has asked its portfolio company CEOs to sign a “side letter" affirming their commitment to consider women and other underrepresented groups for senior jobs and new spots on their board of directors.
Can making pledges— or even hiring a C-Suite level employee to manage diversity efforts— really make an impact on the funding gap for multicultural women-led companies?
Many experts say it's going to take systemic change, not letters of intent.
It is well reported that the amount of investment going to multicultural women-led companies is incongruous to the entrepreneurial landscape and the performance of their businesses. Between 2007 and 2016, there was an increase of 2.8 million companies owned by women of color. Nearly eight out of every 10 new women-owned firms launched since 2007 has been started by a woman of color yet, these businesses receive an abysmal 0.2 percent of all funding. Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller, founders of Mented cosmetics, were just the 15th and 16th Black women in history to raise $1M in the fall of 2017.
The multicultural women who do defeat the odds to get funded receive significantly less than male founders. The average startup founded by a Black woman raises only $36,000 in venture funding, while the average failed startup founded by a White man raises $1.3M before going out of business.
The implicit and explicit bias not only impacts individual multicultural female founders, it could be stifling innovation. For example, companies with above-average diversity on their management teams reported innovation revenue as 45 percent of total revenue compared to just 26 percent of total revenue at companies with below-average management diversity. That means nearly half the revenue of companies with more diverse leadership comes from products and services launched in the past three years.
In our economy today, venture capital is responsible for funding the work of our most innovative companies. Venture capital-backed U.S. companies include some of the most innovative companies in the world. In 2013, VC-backed companies account for a 42 percent of the R&D spending by U.S. public companies.
With a wealth of multicultural women entrepreneurs and evidence to support the performance of diverse companies, why does this funding gap persist?
According to Kristin Hull, founder of Oakland-based Nia Impact Capital and Nia Community, many traditional investors consider women or minority-led businesses as a category in their portfolio, like gaming tech or consumer packaged good. Hull, who focuses on building portfolios where financial returns and social impact work hand-in-hand, argues gender and ethnicity are not a business category and investors who dedicate a specific percent of their portfolio to diverse companies are the ones missing out.
“We are doing this backwards," says Hull. “Adding diverse, women-run companies actually de-risks an investment portfolio."
Hull points to research that has found women are more likely to seek outside help when a company is headed for trouble and operate businesses with less debt on average. What's more, a study conducted by First Round Capital concluded that founding teams including a woman outperform their all-male peers by 63 percent.
Ximena Hardstock, a 43-year-old immigrant from Chile experienced this bias first hand before she raised $5.1M for her tech startup. “How do you get an investor to notice you and take you seriously?" says Hardstock. “White men from Harvard have a track record and investors are all looking for entrepreneurs that fit the Zuckerberg mold. But a woman from Chile with an accent who started a technology company? There is no track record for that and this is a problem so many women of color face."
Hardstock came to the U.S. from the suburbs of Santiago when she was just 20-years-old. Alone with no family or connections in the U.S., Hardstock worked as a cleaning lady, a bartender, and a nanny before she began teaching and working in education. “I had a lot of ideas and Chile is still a very conservative country," she says. “Most women become housewives but I wanted to do something different. So, I moved to the U.S."
Hardstock went on to earn a Ph.D. in policy studies, served as vice president of Advocacy for National StudentsFirst and worked as a member of Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty's cabinet. Her experience working in both education and government exposed her to a need to simplify the process of connecting lawmakers with their constituents. As a result, Hardstock founded Phone2Action, a digital advocacy company that enables organizations and individual citizens to connect with policymakers via email, Twitter, Alexa and Facebook using their mobile phones.
Because venture capital and private equity are not necessarily meritocracies, Hardstock initially struggled to get in an audience with the right investors despite her company's growth potential, her experience, and her education. In fact, it wasn't until she won a competition at SXSW in 2015 that she could get an audience with a serious venture capitalist.
While it may seem like symptoms of a bygone era, both Hardstock and Hull say the path to investor relationships is forged in places where many women of diverse backgrounds are not – ivy league organizations, golf courses and late night post-board meeting cocktails attended mostly by White men of means.
The history of venture capital has never been very balanced, according to Aubrey Blanche, global head of diversity at Atlassian software development company and co-founder of Sycamore, an organization aiming to fix the VC funding gap for underrepresented founders. “White and Asian men have built the venture system and for generations have been seeking out people like themselves to invest in."
Personal and professional networks are critical for founders to connect with investors, but many multicultural women don't have access to the networks their White peers have. According to a study conducted by PRRI, the average White person has one friend who is Black, Latino, Asian, mixed race, and other races. This common situation makes getting that all important warm introduction to established VCs very challenging for multicultural women founders.
“Is the ecosystem of your network equivalent to your net worth? Absolutely," says Hardstock. “For us, we have to build our own ecosystem and recreate what happens on the golf courses and at the Harvard reunions."
To Hardstock's point, most multicultural women with entrepreneurial aspirations lack that Ivy League network. According to reporting published in The New York Times, Black students make up just nine percent of the freshmen at Ivy League schools but 15 percent of college-age Americans. This gap has been largely unchanged since 1980.
While notable female investors such as Arlan Hamilton, Joanne Wilson, and Kathryn Finney are actively working to close the funding gap for women of color, only seven percent of current senior investing partners at the top 100 venture firms are women. Less than three percent of VC funds have Black and Latinx investment partners. Without an influential network, Hardstock and entrepreneurs like her are left screaming for a seat at the table.
When Black, Latina, and Asian women founders do get in the room with the right investors, they have to work harder to get the investors to relate to their products and services. “Entrepreneurs solve problems they understand," says Blanche. “When multicultural women entrepreneurs present their businesses to a homogenous group of male investors who may not be equipped to understand the idea, they may pass on an amazing business."
Take, for example, the founders of Haute Hijab or LOLA. Founders of both successful startups would have to explain the market for their services to a table occupied mostly by men who may never have considered that Muslim women want more convenient access to fashion and have never considered women might prefer to purchase organic tampons.
This lack of familiarity typically means reduced funding for women and a host of other consequences.
As one recent study pointed out, even the way investors frame questions to women can impact funding. According to the Harvard Business Review, female founders are often asked “prevention-oriented" questions focused on safety, responsibility, security, and vigilance. Male founders, on the other hand, are often asked questions focused on hopes, achievement, advancement, and ideals.
When all of these factors are considered, a side letter may not be enough to begin to close the funding gap.
Both Blanche and Hull say real change can be made by democratizing information and education on impact investing. Both women say educating investors and MBA candidates about impact investing is the best way to overcome current bias.
Blanche's organization, Sycamore, produces a newsletter for new angel investors who want to help close the funding gap while making money in the process. Hull's firm has an internship program for multicultural girls from Oakland to expose them to the worlds of investing, entrepreneurship, business leadership, and financial literacy.
“I'm excited about the changes I see," says Blanche. “I see more firm employing the Rooney Law on an institutional level, an increase in smaller firms looking at underserved communities, and the democratization of institutional funding."
Hull adds that as long as multi-cultural women-led firms continue to show returns and outperform or perform on par with companies founded by White men, the investor community will rethink their portfolio strategies.
This piece was originally published in 2018.