75% of Women Face Gender Bias in Plant-Based Industry: “People Have Assumed I Am My Male Co-Founder’s Assistant or an Aide.”

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The founders of the Vegan Women Summit surveyed 160 female founders of plant-based and cell-based food startups around the world, and the results highlight huge disparities, with one woman commenting, “All my mentors were men who disappeared as success grew, or they disappeared when I refused to sleep with them.”

Even now in 2020, and within a progressive industry such as veganism, it is clear from the survey results that antiquated prejudices surrounding women in business are still prevalent, and often center around the woman being over-emotional or unable to handle business. One respondent noted: “More than once investors treated me as ’emotional’, something ‘to handle,’ or ‘sentimental’.”

Women stick around in the long run

One anonymous participant noted in terms of gender difference in the industry: “My observation is that male founders are more successful initially as they are more brazen about telling everyone how great their ideas and abilities are whereas the women I encounter tend to reticent to self promote. This results in some male founders being a “flash in the pan” and then disappear whereas women seem to stick around in the long run”

The survey results, which can be seen here, are shocking:

  • 30% of women report that they have faced harassment or discrimination in the workplace
  • An incredible 50% have been harassed by an investor.
  • More than two-thirds (69%) of founders with a co-founding team have a male co-founder. 
  • Overwhelmingly, 75% of founders do not feel their male co-founder faces the same barriers as they do.
Vegan Woman Summit
©Vegan Women Summit

“In my eight years of business, I’ve seen competitors come and go. I’ve had representatives from a male-owned company pose as co-packers to steal my intellectual property, and then launch their own coconut yogurt. At another facility, a male-owned dairy company launched a coconut yogurt after I started producing there. Experiences like this have created anxiety and distrust around working with co-packers, so I’ve gone back to manufacturing the product myself,” said Anita Sheppard, founder of Anita’s.

Building the next generation of female founders

Jennifer Stojkovic is the founder of Vegan Women Summit. This survey, among other data points, encouraged her to found Pathfinder, the world’s first global female founder summit and pitch competition dedicated to plant-based innovation, whose inaugural event will take place this December. The event will feature panels, workshops, and chats from two dozens female founders and CEOs from around the world and a worldwide female founder pitch competition with a $50,000 prize package.

Jennifer says: “The challenge we’ve given ourselves at Vegan Women Summit is to find innovative ways to build the next generation of female founders in the plant-based space. Through our recent survey results, we have discovered more than one-third of female founders entering the space move towards a more plant-based diet ​after​ founding their company. We are eager to explore this opportunity and create a mainstream entry point into the industry for founders coming from all backgrounds.”

Vegan Women Summit
©Vegan Women Summit

Applications for VWS Pathfinder will be accepted from founders around the world through Oct. 23. Ten semi-finalists will be selected and then narrowed to five finalists, who will be announced on Dec. 1. Both the selection committee and the final jury panel will consider the market impact, team experience, growth potential, business model, differentiation, and value proposition of each pitch.

For more information about Vegan Women Summit, visit ​​

For more information about VWS Pathfinder or to submit a pitch, visit​

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