Leaving out women only hurts VC firms
Venture capital is one of the last industries where women have not made great strides. Of the hundreds of senior investing partners in venture firms, fewer than one in 20 are women. The dynamic has to change.
We are in the business of helping to define the future. Whether we invest in industry disrupting startups or support entrepreneurs creating entirely new spaces, one of our most important attributes is the ability to envision products and solutions that may not exist today, but can become pervasive in the future. Diversity of thought in our profession is a must, and leaving out the perspectives of 50 percent of the population only hurts us.
Of course, this begs the question of how women can enter or be recruited into the industry. Venture capitalists often come from the ranks of successful entrepreneurs and operators in technology companies. These individuals have deep understandings of technology, often with computer science and engineering degrees, complemented by business building experiences. Historically, these individuals have been men. To this day, only 10 percent of computer science and related majors are obtained by women. And, the pool of talent narrows further since only some of these women pursue entrepreneurial roles.
This is in no way an attempt to justify the dismal representation of women in venture capital, but it has contributed to the situation. The good news is that this dynamic is changing. The advent of digital, from the emergence of e-commerce to digital publishing, from mobile to social, has opened doors for women to lead technology-enabled startups without the need for knowing how to code or understanding the inner workings of an integrated circuit.
In Boston alone, we have several women-led and founded companies that have launched successful initial public offerings or been acquired at very high prices. Furthermore, the number of women who have taken senior leadership positions in large technology companies has also increased. In other words, the talent pool of women for senior venture capital positions has increased meaningfully in recent years.
When I was promoted to partner at Fairhaven Capital at the end of 2011, a reporter highlighted Fairhaven as one of only six firms in Boston to have a woman in its senior investment ranks. Only 2-½ years later, I count five new women-led seed funds, three venture capital firms led by women, and a number of other women who have been promoted to partner positions. Others have advanced to partnerships by switching firms. The momentum for change is there.
While the sense of urgency to bring women into the industry should continue and grow, I remain confident that in the not too distant future, when we see our names in the media, we will no longer be rare specimens who have broken the glass ceiling of a male-dominated industry. Instead with a better-balanced industry, I look forward to the day when we are viewed simply as successful investors who have helped build landscape-altering businesses, with little regard to our gender.