Celebrate Women of Color Founders with Funding

Ellen K. Pao
Mar 8 · 4 min read

A call to action from Aniyia Williams & Ellen Pao

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Women founders of color deserve recognition — and money. It’s time to replace the window-dressing with real representation.

On International Women’s Day, we should focus on the numbers, and the right numbers. International Women’s Day (#IWD2020) was designed to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of all women — while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality. So instead of letting this day pass as yet another PR opportunity to highlight a company or firm’s gender diversity with one specific racial background, let’s take a hard look at what matters most to investors: the dollars.

On this specific International Women’s Day, for the tech community, we want to encourage usage of a specific metric: funding for female and nonbinary founders, especially ones of color.

We love seeing the founders that you’ve invested in placed prominently on your websites as examples of your openness to diversity and inclusion. But we want to know the full story, because what we’re seeing in the overall industry looks bleak.

Why do we care about funds going to WOC founders?

It’s well known that women founders receive less than half the funding that male founders do. And consider intersectionality, which shows how biases against people in more than one underrepresented category are more than additive, including in venture investing. It’s hard to find comprehensive numbers covering race and gender in funding, but the limited research available shows huge gaps: Black women receive only $36,000 in average funding compared to the overall average of $1.3 million. Latinx women receive only 0.4% of total venture capital funding.

And we should look at percent of funding by firm.

VC firms should treat demographics just as they would any other important business area: Track metrics for their investing in women of color founders and CEOs, using an accurate and open method based on percent of founders and amount of funding, not the current popular and overly generous method that looks at number of investments in companies with at least one woman founder.

The demographics at VC firms are just as disappointing. As a former partner at a Silicon Valley firm, Ellen is all too familiar with them. As a former venture-funded founder, Aniyia has experienced the challenges of raising capital firsthand, driving her to push for more alternatives. According to Richard Kerby’s research in 2018, 82% of venture capitalists are male and 70% are white. AllRaise reported in 2018 that over 70% of US VC firms have no women partners, and women hold less than 10% of VC leadership roles.

Do better.

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To make this truly an International Women’s Day, let’s encourage those who highlight white women to also consider the whole spectrum of diversity within gender. #IncludeWOC

And to further help them out, let’s recognize and showcase #WOCFounders, especially the many Black and Latinx women and nonbinary founders.

Share this post and tag 5 women you would love to see funded.

This International Women’s Day and every day, we at @bbfounders and @projectinclude celebrate #WOCFounders who are out there making it happen against all odds. And to our partners @code2040 and @blackgirlscode, we commend and will continue to support your work cultivating future WOC founders.

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Finally, VC firms: We urge you to share your numbers, not just names. If you are an investor looking for ways to engage into the incredible talent in our industry, check out organizations that can help and the names tagged.

Signed,

Aniyia Williams and Ellen Pao


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Aniyia Williams is an entrepreneur, inventor, international speaker and tech changemaker. She is Executive Director of Black & Brown Founders, co-founder of Zebras Unite, and founding member of Build Tech We Trust. aniyia.com

Ellen Pao is an investor, activist and thought leader. She is co-founder and CEO of Project Include, former interim CEO of Reddit, and author of “Reset.” ellenkpao.com

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