Rarely does a day go by that I don’t read a new article or post about the lack of women in technology or under-representation of women in venture capital.
Last year, I wrote an article on Social Finance sharing some of the statistics and anecdotal research on the numbers of women in VC.
Illuminate Ventures and Cindy Padnos makes a great case for gender equity in their white paper. In brief, Illuminates Ventures noted that:
- Women build more capital-efficient businesses – use less capital to achieve same levels of success of their male counter-parts
- Women-led ventures experience lower failure rates
- Women-led ventures can achieve venture-level returns
- Gender diversity improves performance
We have plenty of statistics, data, and leaders speaking out on this issue and why it is important, now we can do something about it. Here are some suggestions for where we can start:
1. Celebrate the examples of businesses that do demonstrate and live a culture of gender diversity and equity.
Take for example THNK Vancouver, co-founded by Lee Feldman and Sarah Dickinson boasts a diverse team of creative women and men. Spring Activator, which I co-founded with Keith Ippel has a team of women – because they have the skills and experience we need to support entrepreneurs building high potential, impact-based ventures, the vast majority of which have some technology element to them.
THNK Vancouver and Spring Activator are not typically the kind of businesses that come to mind when you talk about tech – we are in the creative leadership and venture building space, respectively. We enable the entrepreneurs that build tech-based ventures, but what are the examples where there is diversity in the tech team and amongst programmers? Let’s name more of those potential role models for others.
2. Design your business with the culture of gender diversity in mind.
This starts from the top: as the CEO or as a member of the leadership team, do women and men like working with you? Do you inspire both men and women? Are you empathic to the needs of both men and women?
Take for example the issue of families. Getting pregnant and having a family is no longer an issue that only women face. I increasingly meet more men who want to spend time with their newborns or their children, who share in childcare responsibilities. Designing your business to be flexible and supportive for women to have children is not the issue. It is about designing your business to be flexible and supportive to people for whom family matters (and family not only means children, but aging parents or others in the family that need extra support and care).
Take a look at the potential barriers in your company, starting from the perspective of women, and begin to take steps to remove them so that more women do apply for programming and other technical roles. Other organizations and educational institutions are already taking steps to increase the number of women in engineering, computer science, and math. What can you do to open your doors to them?
3. Support the increased participation of women as investors in tech-based based and other early-stage ventures.
The issue of gender equity in tech ventures echos and runs parallels to the conversation around the under-representation of women in venture capital – the investment side of the equation – as well. Leadership comes from the top and investors as leaders play an important role. We already see examples of this – Golden Seeds and Pipeline Fellowship are often cited. But we can do better than count on one hand the number of progressive organizations encouraging and developing women investors in venture.
One of the reasons why I started Pique Ventures, an early-stage impact-based venture capital firm focused on leadership diversity, was to address gender equity at the investor level. The fund I’m presently developing, Pique Venture Investments (VCC), is designed to be accessible, not only to men, but in particular to women. The accessibility and attractiveness comes through in the types of ventures the fund will be investing in (ones with diverse leaders and a larger representation of women-led or co-led ventures, the creative economy and social technologies), how the fund engages with investors (will be accessible to non-accredited investors and I’m planning events where investors get the opportunity to meet and connect with each other throughout the year), and a goal of achieving solid venture returns as well as positive impact.
We are at the cusp of change – this intersection of technology, impact, venture capital and gender equity gives us the opportunity to be leaders and really make a difference.
This article was originally written as response to “Culture or Nurture? Getting to the Bottom of Tech’s Gender Imbalance” in the Wall Street Journal and first posted on LinkedIn in August 2014.