Diversity Venture

Venture Capital Is Still A ‘Boys’ Club.’ Let’s Start To Change That

Illustration of woman at work.

By Neal Dempsey

A recent Axios survey finds that venture capital is still overwhelmingly dominated by men, with 65 percent of U.S. venture capital firms lacking female partners.

In terms of numbers, the industry is still very much a boys’ club. As female representation in venture capital continues to lag in North America, more action is required to increase their representation.

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While most studies show that steps have been taken to close the gender gap in investment firms, much more work remains to be done. Following are a few points to keep in mind in our quest for gender diversity, based on data from recent research and feedback from industry professionals.

A closer look at the current state of women in VC

When it comes to female representation, the harsh reality remains that the majority of venture capital firms are run by all-male management teams. In 2019, women made up roughly 13 percent and 15 percent of partners at American and Canadian venture firms, respectively. And while a full percentage point increase over the previous year is cause for celebration, we still have a long way to go before reaching the balanced 50 percent mark.

Laurie Dmytryshyn, chief of equity investment at PIC Investment Group Inc., is one of many female investors who agree. During a recent conversation with Dmytryshyn, she mentioned the unfortunate uniqueness of being pitched to as a female investor.

“I was recently approached by a US-based female entrepreneur. We got along well during the pitch, and at the end of the conversation, she shared that I was the first female she had ever pitched to. It’s a problem.”

Neal Dempsey is the managing general partner of Bay Partners

These occurrences are not a coincidence, but a pattern, a symptom of a structural issue in the industry that must be addressed before it propagates. And as things currently stand, development opportunities are not improving, and female representation is declining—with women accounting for only 36 percent of venture analysts, 13 percent of partners, and 9 percent of managing partners in all of North America.

Venture capital needs more women

As investors, it is our responsibility to support and encourage more women. Funds managed by limited partners are primarily invested in funds led by men, and while there is talk of change, more needs to be done to prepare women to be successful partners.

Taking this step would benefit us all. Indeed, research shows that firms with a broader range of networks and experiences often make more successful investments owing to better deal flow.

“There is a misconception that women are more risk-averse than men,” explains Alice Reimer, founder of The51. “But to me, it all boils down to becoming more thoughtful about the companies in which they invest.”

“The hard truth is that women are less likely to be invited to invest, but we are devoted to changing this narrative,” adds Reimer.

Despite the fact that venture capital remains a minority club, more diverse businesses are striking deals and turning the tables.

After all, innovation and change are at the heart of venture capital’s future, and they can be reached with a few simple steps. By recognizing and incorporating the contributions of hardworking women into investment decisions, we will discover a level of success that was once only imaginable.

“It’s not a case of us versus them; it’s a case of opportunity versus opportunity. Pay attention to the business at hand, not the gender,” says Alicia Soulier, founder of SalonScale.

Neal Dempsey is the managing general partner of Bay Partners, one of the longest-running venture capital firms in Silicon Valley with more than $2.5 billion in successful returns. Dempsey also provides angel investment for entrepreneurs “in unexpected places” around the globe.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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