Kaye Hope.
Kaye Hope.

Kaye Hope: "Don’t Give Me A F*cking Pink Balloon"

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Kaye Hope is the chief commercial officer of Farmable, portfolio company at Norselab

“Don’t give me a f*cking pink balloon. Or flowers. Or chocolates for that matter.” This was the response that my question had provoked, which started innocently as, “How shall we celebrate International Women’s Day?”

As a woman myself, I was intrigued by the response that seemed prevalent in the team I had joined just a few weeks prior. To be frank, this is not just any team. This is NorseLab, a highly reputable co-founding team comprised of serial entrepreneurs, top-tier consulting talent and tech rockstars. NorseLab emphasizes its’ commitment to co-founding businesses that are meaningful and the people you find in its’ portfolio company embody this deeply.

The women who have become my colleagues are clear on what they don’t want for International Women’s Day - no material objects that suggest ‘here is a reminder that you need to be given something to come-up equal with the other gender.’ Rather, what they are seeking is awareness that women in Norway are still fighting for equality.

Norway is often touted to be one of the ‘best places in the world to be a women’, and yet women here are still seeking equality on a variety of levels. Equal pay. Equal opportunities. Equal airtime. Equal funding. Overall - equal status.

NorseLab itself is making strides in this arena. The team has recently invested in two startups, each solely employed by women. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that female-led startups are a sound investment given the ROI numbers that follow. Last year a study analyzed by BCG found that, “startups founded and co-founded by women generate generate 78 cents of revenue for dollar of funding, while male-founded startups generated less than half that—just 31 cents.”

And yet even in Norway, female founded, or co-founded, tech startups received only 13% of total VC funding in 2017.

Stepping back to look beyond the Norwegian startup scene, the results don’t improve. The Financial Times reported last year that of the 213 publicly listed companies in Norway, only 15 were lead by women. Further, despite Norway’s reputation as a world leader in gender equality, a pay gap of 15% persistently exists between Norwegian women and their male counterparts for equal work.

My own experience as a tech entrepreneur in Norway has been genuinely positive. In 2015, I transitioned from a corporate career to being a startup founder with strong support from Oslo’s own StartupLab. As a mother of two young kids, I believe Norway could easily be the best place in the world to be both a parent and an entrepreneur. However, when we look the facts it’s clear that my experience has been the exception, not the norm.

To the women and men at NorseLab, the issue of gender equality in Norway is absolutely a cause worth fighting for. On Friday March 8th, we decided not to hand out flowers or chocolates to the women on our team. Instead you will find us interviewing women. Hiring Women. Investing in women. Listening to women. Giving equal pay to women. And that’s a hell of a lot better than f*cking pink balloon.