By Tiffany Hill
The past two years have been filled with change-making events for women, from the re-ignition of the Me Too movement, which launched the Time’s Up campaign in Hollywood, to the multi-million strong Women’s Marches across the country.
When it comes to meaningful progress in the workforce, change has been slower to come. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2017, women earned only 82 percent of what men earned.1
Women don’t fare any better in the venture capital area. Only nine percent of venture capitalists in the U.S. are women and 74 percent of VC firms in the country don’t have partner that’s a woman.2
“Being the only one is incredibly damaging to one’s own spirit and morale. But if you are in that situation, you are exactly where you should be. The more women we can get into these other industries, it will make the industries for the better,” says Holly Liu, co-founder of the mobile gaming company, Kabam.
Liu will be talking about what it’s like to be a woman venture capitalist, working in a male-dominated industry and the importance of women investing in women at this year’s East Meets West,3 Hawaii’s premier startup event put on by Blue Startups, the Honolulu-based venture accelerator.
In 2018, organizations such as All Raise and the Billion Dollar Fund for Women4 launched to advance the successes of women entrepreneurs, founders and venture capitalists and raise funds for them to do so. In October, Blue Startups committed to investing $1 million in female founded startups in partnership with the Billion Dollar Fund.
Kendra Ragatz , the COO and operating partner of Aspect Ventures, and a speaker at this year’s East Meets West says the existence of these organizations and the current political and social climate is shifting the landscape for women in technology. “It’s all part of a virtuous cycle. For instance, when you have firms that have more than one female investing partner, not coincidentally the number of female CEOs in their portfolio rises. At Aspect, over 40 percent of our portfolio has a female founder or co-founder versus 18 percent for the industry at large.”
Ragatz and Liu say there are immediate actions leaders can take to diversify their company. “It starts with recognizing and communicating that diversity is truly valuable to your business,” says Ragatz. “The evidence from studies is overwhelming that diversity leads to broader networks and better decision-making.” She adds that when an investment is in the final stages of consideration at Aspect Ventures, every investment professional provides input. “Not only do we hear valuable perspectives from each of our team members, but it reinforces that each voice is valuable.”
Liu adds that executives can enact change within their companies with the hiring process itself. “Any business can diversify their company culture immediately by looking at its recruiting processes and implementing the Rooney Rule in the candidate cycle,” says Liu. The Rooney Rule,5 named after Dan Rooney, the former owner of the Pittsburg Steelers, was established in 2003 and requires teams to interview minority candidates for coaching and manager positions before those vacancies are filled.
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For more information on women investing in women and much more, attend this year’s East Meets West event from January 31 to February 1. More than 30 people speak at East Meets West, including venture capitalists, startup co-founders and CEOs of accelerators, photo editing apps, email delivery platforms, vacation booking sites and more. They hail from Hawaii, the U.S. China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore and New Zealand and many do cross-border business.