Today, Women Get Only 2% of VC Dollars. These 16 VCs Explain Why, And How This Can Be Solved

Yitzi Weiner
Apr 13, 2018 · 39 min read

By Rachana Bhide and Yitzi Weiner

A recent Fortune Magazine article reported that in 2017, only 2% of Venture Capital dollars went to female founders.

We spoke to more than 15 prominent VCs to explain how these numbers are possible, what can be done in general to remedy this, and what they specifically can do to remedy these numbers.

Here are their ideas:

Francesca “Check” Warner, Co-Founder & CEO, Diversity VC; Venture Advisor, Seraphim Capital

My Venture Capital Background

Check is the co-founder and CEO of Diversity VC, the world’s first non-profit dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in Venture Capital. In May 2017, Diversity VC produced the first ever study on the number of women in VC, in partnership with the BVCA. Diversity VC’s work has been featured in the FT, Bloomberg and Business Insider and was highlighted in the UK Government’s November 2017 budget.

Check is also a Venture Advisor at Seraphim Capital, the Series A Space Tech fund with investments in companies including Spire and IceEye. Prior to joining Seraphim Capital, Check spent two years at Downing Ventures, investing in over 30 early-stage technology businesses, with a focus on consumer health and deep technology. Before moving into Venture, Check worked in marketing for AMV BBDO. She graduated from Corpus Christi, Cambridge in 2012.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

There are so many reasons why female founders get far less of a proportion of venture funding than their male counterparts.

However, the key reason in my opinion is the lack of diversity in VC firms themselves. The organization I co-founded to address this challenge, Diversity VC, carried out the first ever study on the number of women in VC in the UK in partnership with the BVCA and This study showed that 48% of UK VC firms had no women in their investment teams and only 13% of partners in the UK are female. The statistics in the US are similar, with just 11% of partners being female. The statistics are even worse for ethnic diversity, with Social Capital reporting that 78% of VCs in the US are white men. This lack of diversity has a profound impact on the companies that are funded. Not only is it a less welcoming prospect to approach a group of white male venture capitalists if you are a female founder, it is also practically difficult, since many venture capitalists asks founders to get a ‘warm introduction’ through someone that they mutually know. Many female founders just don’t have the links into these funds through work networks. Finally, it’s been proven that there is significant unconscious bias in the decision making process when deciding whether to make an investment, which disadvantages female founders seeking funding. All of these factors conspire against female founders, so it is disappointing but unsurprising that they receive so few venture capital dollars.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

A straightforward solution is to hire more women in your VC firm. In order to do this I suggest using the Rooney Rule, i.e interviewing one woman for every man, for every open position. This is different from a quota, but at least ensures that the pipeline for hiring is 50–50. I also suggest that VC’s examine their decision-making processes and think about how to reduce unconscious bias. One way of doing this is to bring multiple points of view into the decision making process (so more than one person has to approve a company being rejected for funding). Another way of doing this is to use a checklist system when making investment decisions, rather than purely ‘gut feel’ as that may bias investors against women. Finally, if you are a decision maker at a VC, you could commit to meeting at least 5 companies each month with a female founder. I have re-examined our internal investment decision-making process to ensure that it is as fair as possible from the top to the bottom of the funnel.

Rudina Seseri, Founder and Managing Partner, Glasswing Ventures

My Venture Capital Background

Rudina Seseri is a Founder and Managing Partner at Glasswing Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in the next generation of AI-powered technology companies that connect consumers and enterprises and secure the ecosystem. With over 15 years of investing and transactional experience, Rudina has led technology investments and acquisitions in startup companies in the fields of robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), SaaS marketing technologies and digital media. Rudina’s portfolio investments include Talla, Celtra, CrowdTwist, Jibo and SocialFlow. Rudina has been appointed by the Dean of the Harvard Business School (HBS) for a fourth consecutive year to serve as Entrepreneur-In-Residence for the Business School, as Executive-In-Residence for Harvard University’s innovation-Lab and has most recently been named to the 2018 HBS inaugural group of Rock Venture Capital Partners. She is also a Member of the Business Leadership Council of Wellesley College.

Rudina also serves as Advisor for L’Oreal USA Women in Digital, as Director on the Board of the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX) and on the Board of Overseers for Boston Children’s Hospital. She has been named a 2017 Boston Business Journal Power 50: Newsmaker, a 2014 Women to Watch honoree by Mass High Tech and a 2011 Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree for her professional accomplishments and community involvement. She graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Economics and International Relations and with an MBA from the Harvard Business School (HBS). She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Epsilon honor societies.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

Women founders are often overlooked for VC funding by both men and women alike, and especially in the technology space. This can be due to multiple factors which can include anything from a pre-existing mindset, sexism, to the differing styles in how women pitch vs. what typical VCs are used to everything in between.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

As VCs we need to be accountable and take a look around at our own firms. How many women are part of the firm’s Monday morning partner meetings? How many women are truly a part of the VC firm’s general membership — and have real investment authority? As VCs we need to proactively ensure diversity in the senior ranks of the management teams in our portfolio companies. We need to add independent directors that are women to our boards and elevate well-deserving women to the role of general partners in our venture firms. By not funding women entrepreneurs and not having women’s voices as directors on our boards, we are selling ourselves short and only listening to half of our audience and talent pool. Funding innovative women entrepreneurs makes good business sense, and provides a higher potential for returns. For those women who are already GPs and CEOs or are already sitting at the board table, the responsibility and the time is at hand to make sure you are proactively involved in elevating exceptional women.

Heather Hartnett, CEO & Partner, Human Ventures

My Venture Capital Background

Heather is the CEO and Partner of Human Ventures, the first company builder and venture fund of its kind. She was recently featured in The Information as The new breed of VC and Business Insider called her the first female-led startup studio, bringing a fresh new perspective to the tech scene.

Heather comes from a long line of entrepreneurs and started her first company when she was 12 years old. She was buying a portfolio of domain names in the early 90’s building business plans around each one. She’s spent her career at the intersection of investing, company building, and philanthropy — starting out in venture capital in 2005 and founding Human Ventures 10 years later in 2015.

Human Ventures takes a company building approach to investing. They can add outsized value to their investments due to their robust build platform and have created a connected Human network to set their founders up for success.

A few of the portfolio companies they’ve helped build to date include, Reserve, Current, Token and Clark. Human is backed by an incredible group of industry titans such as David Solomon (Goldman Sachs), Chris Sacca (Lowercase), Beth Comstock (GE) and Howard Morgan (First Round Capital) to name a few.

She serves on the leadership council for Tech:nyc and is a mentor to both the NYC MIT Startup Studio and 1776 Accelerator. She is a contributor to Forbes, where she uncovers impactful startups, investors, and unsung founders.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

I believe that the profile of the venture-backable entrepreneur has been established over decades of deep pattern recognition. In the early days of venture, successful outcomes were mapped to founders stemming from industries such as finance and computer science — which were predominately male.

The present day profile of a venture-backable entrepreneur is rapidly changing. As a founder, you need far more developed in terms of personality traits and domain expertise in order to build a team, prove a market fit, form a culture, beat the competition, constantly grow and deal with human problems every step of the way. While technology is still a large part of growth, the skill has become somewhat commoditized.

While the profile and requirements of a founder have dramatically expanded, the tools and ways we look for pattern recognition have primarily remained the same. The job of a venture capitalist is to be an evaluator of risk. In early-stage venture specifically, you are investing where your background, instincts, pattern recognition and due diligence convince you that the anticipated return will far exceed your evaluation of the risk.

The founder is only one factor in assessing the investment, but I would argue it’s the most important.

It makes logical sense that the investors who have been doing this for a long time have developed a strong pattern recognition that does not encompass the modern day venture-backable entrepreneur but pulls on experiences of those who have succeeded in the past.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

1. Redefining pattern recognition: As investors, we can do more thoughtful work to develop new heuristics that map to the expanding definition of who could be a successful, venture-backable entrepreneur.

2. Change the face of investing: We have to change our pattern recognition, but sometimes it’s just coming from a different background that gives you that edge or insight. There are increasing statistics that show having more women in investment positions move the needle on more women receiving investment. AND that you see better financial returns. Limited partner (LP) support is a critical piece to the long-term success of this effort.

3. Be an ally: If you’ve seen success as a venture capitalist (male or female), hold yourself to an even higher standard of recognizing new talent entering into venture investing and teach them what it has taken you years to hone. I am positive they will teach you a thing or two as well.

Kara Egan, Sr. Associate, Emergence Capital

My Venture Capital Background

Kara is on the Investment Team at Emergence Capital Partners. She brings over 10 years of experience growing tech startups, as both an investor and operator. She’s actively involved with the Emergence portfolio, including board observer at UpKeep, Top Hat, and Zinc.

Kara’s expertise is in B2B product and partner marketing from Seed stage companies through to IPO. She joined Zendesk, prior to going public, to help the company expand up market. She successfully launched their enterprise product through tight coordination with product, sales, customer success, and external telephony partners. Before moving to the operating side, she blended her passion for venture and entrepreneurialism as the founding Associate of .406 Ventures. At .406, Kara played an integral role in launching the firm, raising the $170M fund, and driving the initial investments in SaaS, Health IT, and Security companies.

Kara earned her MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and her BS in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University. At Stanford, she was All-American and captain of the Nationally ranked Stanford Sailing team.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

What causes these numbers is bias, conscious or unconscious. I prefer to be an optimistic person, I am a VC after all, so I’ll give society the benefit of the doubt and go with unconscious bias. As an industry we often talk about the cause as a pipeline problem, whether this is a dearth of qualified female VC candidates, female led companies, or female executives and leaders. It’s an excuse that we’ve accepted for far too long. We know that women are graduating from colleges at a higher rate than men. We also know that there are a higher percentage of women graduating from engineering & finance degrees than are represented in the new hire classes. So it’s not a pipeline problem, at least not at the start of the pipeline, but rather a systemic problem with how we move women through the pipeline and present them with the same opportunities as men. Studies have shown that men are more likely to get promoted or hired based on potential, whereas women have to have already shown they can do the job. Now think about what this might mean for raising money as a first time CEO? Are we giving the same chance to women led companies as male led companies? Additionally, when we think about backing great leaders, we have a bias towards thinking men are good leaders. A study asked people to list descriptors for a typical man, a typical woman, and a good manager. 71% of the words for a good manager overlap with man and only 10% of the words overlapped for a women. The pipeline problem is one that has been created out of bias. So to correct the pipeline problem, we have to correct for the underlying issues creating it.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

Let’s start with these three things:

First: Commit to learning more about these biases and work toward removing them within our own organization’s practices and the practices that we support within our portfolio companies. Google’s publicly shared their internal training Google’s Unconscious Bias @ Work. Watch it. It’s 45 minutes and you’ll learn a lot. This can help your team identify where bias might be creeping into investing, as well as hiring and promotion. It can also set a framework for how to have conversations around these issues.

Second: Get everyone in your organization to be accountable for changing behavior. We have to stop saying that hiring more women is the answer. YES, we need to hire more women, but if everyone doesn’t take responsibility for making a change it is going to be far too slow. Especially when it comes to investing in women. The majority of Venture Capital investors are men, we can’t wait for the women investors to be hired and drive the awareness of investing in female founders. It can’t be women responsible for correcting this bias, it has to be the entire organization committing to change, especially at the top.

Third: Be more ambitious in our actions so that change doesn’t have to be so incremental. Change is hard, we all know this. But instead of just paying lip service to this issue that is becoming glaringly obvious, let’s step up to the challenge. A Parity Pledge of committing to interviewing one candidate won’t move the meter as much as committing to 30% of the candidates being diverse — which is what we are encouraging at our firm. It’s not the easy route, we know this, but we’re committed to change.

Pascale Diaine, Principal, Storm Ventures

My Venture Capital Background

Pascale is a principal at Storm Ventures focusing on early-stage enterprise SaaS, AI, and AR applied to the B2B world. She made her first investment in the AI space with LiftIgniter providing personalization as a service .

Previously, she worked at Orange (the European Telco) where she founded the corporate accelerator Orange Fab in San Francisco. The initiative was then adopted by the rest of the corporation with today 12 Orange Fab programs active around the world. Pascale managed 8 seasons of the SF accelerator program involving collaboration with seed stage startups (at the time) like Talkdesk (raised $25M), IUNU (recently raised $6M), and TrackR (raised $50M in series B).

While at Orange, Pascale was an evangelist for tech startups and generated access to several world-class thought-leaders, influencers, journalists, and emerging companies.

Pascale holds a Master of Science in Computer Engineering from the University of Technology at Compiègne (UTC). She was born in Lille, France.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

We are all prone to unconscious bias, we all tend to associate women with family and men with work. It is hard to fight bias, they are usually based on snap judgement, gut feeling, and decades of western culture featuring fragile pink princesses.

The consequence is that some women believe that entrepreneurship is not for them, some are intimidated by the process, others can’t even imagine that they could make it, even when they have access to the right knowledge or community. Western culture pushes our society to believe that women are much more risk averse than men, but it does not have to be this way. Unfortunately, such stereotypes keep being fed.

The drop of women in CS/technical majors or tech careers also comes from the fact that young girls drastically lack examples of what being an entrepreneur is or looks like for women. It is hard to relate or get inspired by individuals we can’t identify with. Role models play a very big part here, and we don’t have enough of them in the tech world. It is fantastic to have Meg Whitman, Marissa Mayer, and Sheryl Sandberg. But they are still the exception. Successful female entrepreneurs/executives in the tech space need to become the norm.

As a female VC, it is frustrating to see less women in the entrepreneurial world. Some VCs are probably not even trying to fight their bias, but hopefully we are in the process of changing this. Parents, teachers, VCs, corporate execs, startup CEOs, we all need to proactively fight bias, destroy old stereotypes, and impose new standards. As for female wannabe entrepreneurs… Yes you can!

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

To change a culture and basically impact our society, we need to tackle the problem at multiple levels: upbringing, education, corporate culture, tech culture, etc. From a very young age, you can teach girls that STEM is cool, fun, and totally sexy. I am a big fan of Goldie Blox ( ), an initiative portraying beautiful dolls in scientific or adventurous context. The Rebel Girls ( book is also fantastic, compiling 100 bedtime stories of great women from Ada Lovelace to Serena Williams.The more girls take the STEM/Leadership path, the more accepted it will become. Over time, if enough choose those paths, it could actually become the cool thing to do.

Building support networks are very important too in providing a trusted and knowledgeable circle of influence around female entrepreneurs. We all got here because somebody took a chance on us, we need to send the elevator back down and proactively mentor and support younger female entering the tech world with big dreams. Jess Lee’s initiative organizing office hours by female VCs for female entrepreneurs is a great example of initiative going in the right direction.

Concretely, at Storm Ventures, we try to have an impact on that issue by asking our companies to systematically run a female search process when looking for board candidate or advisors. We have been collaborating with the Athena Alliance to do so, the Boardlist is another good resource. We are also starting to explore solutions like Blendoor that aims at removing bias during a recruitment process by anonymizing gender, age, and ethnicity. We may eventually recommend such tools to our portfolio companies.

Finally, VCs also may need to spend more time proactively following and reaching out to communities of female entrepreneurs. The same way some corporations go out of their way to recruit female engineers, maybe VCs should go out of their way to find more promising female entrepreneurs.

Gail Ball, Managing Partner, Chestnut Street Ventures

My Venture Capital Background

Gail Gilbert Ball is the Managing Partner of Chestnut Street Ventures, a venture fund investing in the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Entrepreneurs. The fund was created to enable UPenn alums to invest in companies with a connection to the school.. (The fund is private, for-profit, and not affiliated with UPenn.)

During Gail’s long career at global financial services firms, she has served in decision-making posts as a banking executive, regulator, service provider, and board member. Her areas of expertise include financial services, portfolio development, financial analysis, and information tech. Gail served as a C-suite member of The Bancorp Bank, the innovative banking solution provider for the most recognizable names in digital banking. She also filled other executive roles at PNC Bank, Chase and Capital One, and NCO Financial Systems. In addition, she headed the Payments Studies Group at the Richmond Fed. Gail has a BS Economics, Finance and Statistics from Wharton (‘79). She is a member of multiple entrepreneurial, venture, and financial interest groups, including Venture Capital Group, On Startups, Innovation in Payments, and Global Financial Markets..

Gail is a leading activist for women in entrepreneurialism and venture capital and in the use of microfinance for poverty alleviation. She held national board officer roles for a decade on the 100,000 member National Council of Jewish Women advocating for women, children and families. For four years, during which time the institution was awarded a full deposit taking charter, she was an outside board director and chair of the Risk Committee of Kompanion, Inc., the largest MFI in Central Asia. Recently, she and other Penn alumnae deeply engaged in the entrepreneurship ecosystem to help facilitate how Penn could further refine and advance support for women students founding companies.

Additionally, she is serving as the lead Investment Committee member of two new funds at parent company Alumni Ventures Group (AVG): (1) the Women’s Fund investing in women-focused or led deals and (2) the Social Impact Fund investing in deals that support good causes such as sustainability, health improvements, well-being and increased opportunity for the underserved, and more. Gail also leads the Project Curie team at AVG, a special project aiming to bring greater gender diversity to all aspects of the venture world.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

In order to figure out what’s causing the uneven capital allocation, we have to look at the investing decision-making system. There is lots of recent research that demonstrates the biases against women. A recent joint paper with Harvard and Wharton’s Laura showcased how female founders are interrogated during in a pitch. While men are asked What milestones did you hit this past year and what are you targeting in the year ahead alternatively women are asked How do you plan to retain your customers. One is clearly expansive and supportive framing while the other is pessimistic and negative in its framing.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

We need to take subjectivity out of the process. This means creating standardized questions and criteria for the investors. This way we ensure that the listener (or investor) gets the same level of information across pitches, and then investment teams can implement a more informed and equitable decision.

On the investment side, we also need more female decision makers — across the board. We see the investors getting pitched are all-too-often men. Then there’s a second layer of pitching to the senior leaders — where again there are very few women (In 2018, only 8% managing partners at the top 100 venture firms are women). We need more diversity in the decision-making seats to help erode the inherent gender bias. Ellen Pao’s book RESET highlights this issue and is a good place to get more background.

Separately, we need to better train women entrepreneurs and help them prepare for the pitch environment. Research conducted at Penn is looking into this specifically. The premise is that if women can be trained differently to have better control managing difficult situations (for example, what you might see with job interview training), then it can enable women to be stronger and better prepared in a biased environment they are likely to face.

We also need to create more purposeful inclusion of women because of their return profile! Perhaps more easily achieved with with funds with a single mission/focus on the female founder. A 10-year review by First Round Capital looking at all the companies they’ve invested in during that time showed that companies with at least one female founder outperformed the rest of their portfolio by 63 percent. That’s huge! We have seen similar studies that also show that more diverse boards of directors (both by gender and race) also outperform companies with homogeneous boards. The Women’s Fund and Social Impact Fund at my company, Alumni Ventures Group (and I sit on both Investment Committees) are examples of this.

Lastly, we need to explore more ways to advocate for women. This can be achieved in two forms: 1) Creating a sponsorship program where there are advocates for women entrepreneurs to help break through funding barriers (this is similar to what you might see when managers advocate for career promotions). This is an active conversation in the Penn community of which I am a part. 2) More women mentors and a more institutionalized process. A current and great example of this is Female Founder Office Hours.

To elaborate further on the topic, here are just a few reasons to invest in ventures with greater gender diversity:

-Multiple studies have found that a higher level of female owners, executives, and directors generally correlates with higher returns and profitability — often significantly higher. In fact, McKinsey has concluded that diversity is a competitive differentiator.

-Women tend to be more capital efficient since they know they’re likely to receive less funding.

-Increasing numbers of female MBAs and serial entrepreneurs mean that the talent pool is growing. Our proprietary research from Project Curie shows that within the MBA population at some of the top universities in the United States (Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, UPenn, Yale, et al.), women are neck-in-neck or outpacing men in earning degrees.

-Women may represent a significant untapped potential for income and productivity growth, bringing positive ripple effects across families, communities and countries.

Pavel Cherkashin, managing partner at GVA Capital and Mindrock

My Venture Capital Background

Pavel Cherkashin is a San-Francisco based venture capital executive and entrepreneur with successful track record of building billion-dollar companies as founder, investor and board member. Pavel is a managing partner at Mindrock and GVA Capital. He invests in blockchain, cryptocurrency, AI and self-driving tech.

Earlier in his career, Pavel was an executive in Microsoft Russia, Adobe Systems and Siebel Systems. He also founded several IT companies, including Sputnik Labs, AdWatch and Actis Systems, all of which were acquired by leading global organizations.

Pavel earned a BS in Computer Science and Global Ecology from Lomonosov Moscow State University and did postgraduate research in computer science at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

It is not that venture investors do not give funding to female founders, it’s that the share of startups with female founders in pipeline is much smaller.

Everybody knows why it is happening, but people don’t like talking about it. Society has a great impact on a woman’s decision to become an entrepreneur. In our existing society, entrepreneurship is a men-centric space. The way women have been brought up and educated gives them lower risk tolerance compared to men. Women need to feel safe, especially if they have children. They want jobs that are more likely to guarantee results, than entrepreneurship. This will change, when women will become less dependent on the source of finance for them and their children. Will it happen in our lifetime? I don’t know.

Despite the current disparity, I am absolutely sure that women in management make positive impact on business success. Take, for example, two leading dating apps Tinder and Bumble. Tinder was made by men for men and the CEO has been known to repeatedly damage his and the company’s reputation. While Bumble, thanks to its consideration of women and good reputation, managed to quickly grow and take a significant share of the market owned by Tinder. From the investor point of view, Bumble is definitely a win here.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

Venture investors cannot artificially increase the success ratio for female founders, because it will ruin the economic of venture funding. The only way to increase the number of successful female founders is to increase the share of startups founded by women at the pipeline level. We need to do it by all means: through accelerators, through special programs, maybe we should even start promoting entrepreneurship among women in schools. Overall, ambition of the founder is what matters to investors, not the founder’s gender.

Ellie Cachette, Managing Director, Cachette Capital

My Venture Capital Background

Ellie Cachette is the Managing Director at Cachette Capital Management, a fund-of-funds specializing in early stage and growth venture capital investing. Prior to CCM Cachette worked as a software project manager across the fintech, consumer and mobile sectors. She is involved in several accelerators across the world and lecturer on (software) product-market-fit.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

Women are born naturally tough and when we think about what motivates a woman to open or run a business, as well as how to grow and scale a business, I think many women look first at producing revenues or capital themselves which is why less women ask for funding compared to men as a whole. Then when we look at the system in which venture capital has been built, its been designed mainly by men both in processes and metrics valued. When you have one group which has mostly dominated a space and know how it works (men) it’s obvious that it would attract more like minded people (men). But then when you look at profitability metrics of venture backed companies founded by women, we see a much higher correlation with profitability of women-led businesses, now why is that? I think when you have one group that is used to having a resource readily available and another group which is not familiar, you are going to have both less supply of (female founders) asking for capital and thus less receiving it as well.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

By competitive knowns if one group becomes successful without the addition of capital and also with the additional of capital, over time the access levels will start to become more even and fair. In the end the venture capital and businesses are built to produce returns on value so if the value of an asset class can increase by a change in behavior this change is almost guaranteed.

Short answer: the gender imbalance in venture is already correcting itself.

Vaclav Muchna, CEO Y Soft, Y Soft Ventures

My Venture Capital Background

Václav Muchna co-founded Y Soft in 2000 in Brno, Czech Republic, with the vision of creating a global organization that operates without borders.

In his mid-teens, Václav started the path toward his professional career by exploring software development, network administration and learning the value of a customer-centric approach to business. During his early professional years, Václav and a small group of partners embarked on many projects ultimately finding success with what is today YSoft SafeQ.

Václav has led Y Soft’s international growth by establishing subsidiaries in Japan, Singapore, USA, Israel, Emirates and many more. Václav has also established Y Soft Ventures, the venture arm of Y Soft, providing promising startups in Central Europe the capital, resources and expertise needed to accelerate their path to global markets. While focused on growing the business and exceeding customer’s needs, Václav also invests in technology, people and cultivating an active company culture.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

There are several reasons.

1) Women are typically more responsible and accountable but also take fewer risks. While this may make them excellent managers and leaders it correlates with their lower appetite for risky capital raising.

2) Women often start businesses based on what they know or solving a problem they have in the home or family environment which may not scale to the liking of VCs.

3) Their business may be in areas that are off the radar of most VCs, such as fashion, restaurants, in other words, not tech related. Often, female founders start their businesses on their own savings and do not ask for VC funding.

Taken together, the result is that there is not a network of female founders who have successfully raised VC capital to mentor other females looking to do the same. Successful male founders are also more likely to become VCs themselves and invest in like-minded males thus making the cycle complete and closed to women.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

It begins with education and encouragement at a young age to expose females to all subjects and to encourage and empower them to take risks. While there is not an overnight solution, there are many things that any company can do:

Encourage and educate women in tech subjects. At Y Soft, we for example, support initiatives, that teaches females programming skills. Companies also need to see that it is working so sharing results is important.

Female employees bring fantastic diversity to typically men-dominated (tech) R&D — and companies that have tried it (like us) will quickly get appetite for more.

The other thing is about VCs… Their model fits typical the risk-hungry male stereotype. But because high risk is involved, they VCs also need high returns, i.e. high growth. VCs should realize that the typical woman stereotype might be different and work with it that way. (I mean when you try to sell typically women stuff (clothes, makeups, etc.) you also look at your target customer group and you try to make a good fit, so maybe VCs should do the same). Because women are naturally less risk-prone, a higher number of investments can turn into a success and therefore VCs would need lower growth rates. So how creating the first women-only VC fund that would have lower growth requirements? I think it is worth to try, because this equation may actually work.

Jeff Ransdell, Founding Partner & Managing Director, Rokk3r Fuel EXO

My Venture Capital Background

Jeff Ransdell is the founding partner and managing director of Rokk3r Fuel EXO, a Miami-based, international venture capital firm that invests in exponential technologies on a global level. Prior to Rokk3r, he joined Merrill Lynch in 1994 as an advisor to private clients and over the next 20 years held many senior level leadership roles on Wall Street. He was Managing Director for the Southeast (including Latin America and the Carribean), one of only six divisions worldwide, and a member of the operating committee at Merrill Lynch, where he helped redefine the financial service offerings at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, reporting directly to the head of wealth management and responsible for $138 billion of global private client assets. By the age of 24 Jeff had built and sold three startups. His success and experience achieving revenue, profit, and business growth within start-ups has been critical to Rokk3r Fuel’s initiatives in opening access for offshore clients to participate in U.S venture eco-systems.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

I believe that unfortunately because there are only 11% of partners at VC firms in the US that are female, it has an impact on funding to female partners. The reason women funding is low is because the headcount of women inside the firms are low. If the headcount looked more like the world around us the funding would be higher because female executives understand the issues females face in business and only they can truly understand. Without this, the firm lacks empathy and understanding. This landscape needs to change at the same exponential rate that the technologies and companies the VC firms are investing in are evolving.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

As I sit here writing this, my firm is hosting a Women who Rokk gathering. What we all must realize is in order to build an ecosystem which is rich in diversity, be it gender or democratic, our firms must look like the world around us. A women has different obstacles than her male counterpart, which they must face on a daily basis and it is impossible for a man to understand what those obstacles are or have the empathy without having women at the senior executive table educate and help craft firm policies.

Elizabeth Galbut, Managing Partner, SoGal Ventures

My Venture Capital Background

Elizabeth Galbut is a venture capitalist, designer, professor, and global speaker on healthcare innovation. She is Managing Partner of SoGal Ventures which invests in diverse founding teams in the US and Asia. With over 50 investments to date, she is actively seeking to back exceptional startups revolutionizing how the next generation lives, works, and stays healthy. She recently was honored as Forbes 30 Under 30 in Venture Capital, NYC’s 33 Under 33 top innovators, and TechWeek100 Innovative Investor.

Elizabeth’s favorite investment area is the intersection of smart design and machine learning/AI fueling major health tech innovation. Her portfolio of digital health startups include lab platform Everlywell, digital pathology analytics pioneer Proscia, medication adherence tech eMocha, smart water bottle Hidrate, AI-powered drug discovery Insilico Medicine, smart socks Siren Care, data-driven skincare technology HelloAva, asthma management tool Tueo Health, global health network MORE Health, sexual wellness brand Unbound, and physician authorization system Glidian.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

Only 6% of venture capital partners are women and 77% of venture capital firms have never hired a woman into an investment role.

Because network plays a major role into which founders get funded, historically the predominantly male networks of Silicon Valley have invested in founders that look, talk, and think like them.

This has created a huge white space and opportunity for female VCs who can build networks, create a brand as a value-add investors, and source deals that male VCs often overlook and/or incorrectly analyze.

Existing players who benefit from the old paradigm will not change for your benefit. That’s why we started SoGal. We’ve built our own network and community from the ground up. As the age old saying goes, if you can’t join them, beat them.

At SoGal Ventures, we believe investing in women is one of the only investment arbitrage opportunities remaining in today’s market. Women make approximately 80% of consumer purchasing decisions, and lead over 85% of healthcare decisions for themselves and their families. These numbers are too big to ignore. Investors who deeply understand women’s needs and invest accordingly will gown the Midas touch in the next decade.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

According to research conducted by the Knight Foundation, in the $71.4 Trillion Alternative Asset industry, only 1.1% of AUM is managed by firms with more than 25% women or minorities on the GP management team. The institutional investors who invest in venture capital funds are predominately of university endowments, public pension funds, union retirement funds, and non-profit foundations — all organizations that serve and represent diverse beneficiary bases. Yet 98.9% of this money is being managed by teams with less than 25% women or minorities on their leadership teams.

As an alumna and donor to multiple universities, this is unacceptable behavior. For organizations that cherish innovation, teach inclusion, demand equality, and strive for diversity — it’s time for institutional LPs to align their money with their missions.

Data is power — research shows there is no difference in return profiles between a firm managed by women or men. More so, there are many data points demonstrating diverse teams actually out-preform all-male teams.

The time is now to put the assets to work. Limited Partners are in a position of power to demand greater diversity among fund management teams in venture capital. Not only will align capital with the demographics of the beneficiary bases the organizations serve, but there’s a good chance it’ll actually improve the bottom line.

Jonathan Sposato, chairman and co-founder of GeekWire, PicMonkey and, angel investor and author

My Venture Capital Background

Jonathan Sposato is chairman and co-founder of GeekWire, PicMonkey and, an angel investor committed to only funding female founded businesses, and the only person to have built and sold two companies to Google. Jonathan is author of the WSJ bestseller, Better Together: 8 Ways Working with Women Leads to Extraordinary Products and Profits .

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

I think there are multiple causes for the lack of funding for female entrepreneurs, but frankly they all sum up to institutionalized sexism. So many female entrepreneurs have incredible ideas but the current framework for doing business in our culture is severely broken, and stacks the decks against women.

First, male VC’s are conditioned to associate great leadership and entrepreneurship with traditionally masculine traits like assertiveness, boldness, and salesmanship, often at the expense of and de-valuing conventionally female traits like great listening, high EQ, or realism (your mileage may vary). A recent harvard study highlighted that identical startup pitches delivered by a male were 67% more likely to get funded vs. the same pitch from a woman. That is 100% about the cultural conditioning of the listener.

Second, female founders are often assumed to be non-technical, regardless of whether it’s true or not, and we hang on to the traditional narrative that only engineers can build the best companies in tech. I think engineers are awesome but so are program managers, UX designers, and product marketers.

Third, male VC’s often assume female founded ideas in the consumer space as being ‘female’, and often sell everyone short in forgetting that women constitute 75% of the online spending on the internet. All too often female entrepreneurs hear feedback like; I’m going to have to talk to my wife before I can understand this from the men in the room.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

The biggest change that needs to happen is that instead of trying to get women to sound more like men, we need to teach men how to LISTEN LOUDER to women’s pitches. Men need to acknowledge our own biases, and be willing to hit reset and learn a new paradigm. Achieving meaningful change for women will require CEOs and business leaders to commit to taking action. I outlined some ideas that I and others have found to be successful, and wrote a book full of actionable steps leaders can take to enact real progress. For example, increasing the visibility of successful women at your company begets more success. This isn’t about one grand solution, but rather the totality of many smaller simpler notions that require sustained attention.

In 2015, I vowed to only invest in companies founded by women (or with at least one female co-founder). In doing so, I hope to continue garnering attention to the fact that women make fantastic leaders just like men, and that gender equity in tech is not only the right thing to do, but the *smart* thing to do. I believed then and continue to believe that not only do women need more seats at the table, but companies with female leadership really do perform better.

Dr. Oksana Malysheva, CEO/Managing Partner, Sputnik ATX & Linden Venture Fund

My Venture Capital Background

Dr. Oksana Malysheva is an investor, entrepreneur and business executive based in Austin, TX. She is the Managing Partner/CEO of Sputnik ATX, an accelerator that funds maker-founders with ideas to create positive change. She is also the Managing Partner/President of Linden Venture Fund. Dr. Malysheva champions the development of innovative, sustainable, world-changing companies. Committed to igniting and fueling social innovation solutions, her mission is creating positive social change through education, technology and innovation. Dr. Oksana Malysheva was born and raised in Soviet Union, Ukraine. Seeking educational opportunities, she moved to the United States with her husband and only $100 to their name. She earned her PhD in physics from the University of Pennsylvania, and soon after, pivoted her focus to business and marketing. Dr. Malysheva previously held top strategic roles at McKinsey and Motorola. Trained as a PhD physicist, Dr. Malysheva brings scientific inquisitiveness, lateral thinking and mastery of insight through data to all of her business endeavors.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

I feel that this issue is somewhat more nuanced than is portrayed in the media. Discrimination and bias have certainly happened in the past, and may still be happening now. But equally there is a lack of understanding how women and men might think, communicate, and present ideas in a different way. The female approach is at least as effective, revolutionary and life changing, but it may come across in a softer voice. As a society we need to recognize and celebrate these differences. Statistics have proven that diverse teams deliver far superior results, and we would be fools not to embrace this. Ultimately, there could be many theories as to what caused the past to be as dismal as it is — I’d rather spend my time thinking about what I can do today to clear the path for women. Focusing on solutions is a more productive use of my time. And the fundamental shift we see in the society now will provide more wind behind the sail.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

VC and entrepreneurship fundamentally make up an apprenticeship industry, so there is a simple thing anyone senior can do today: identify a talented woman, clear a path for her, and recognize differences in leadership styles that are equally effective but can look and sound differently. Do it today. Then find another one, and repeat. I believe that it comes down to the choices that each of us make in our daily lives to promote equality. At Sputnik ATX, we have identified a promising female associate. She is a young, recent college graduate but she has proven herself to be talented. She has helped us to find several smart female interns that in turn, get visibility to the VC process. I guarantee they will crush quite a few gender barriers because they have seen it done, and felt nurtured and supported along the way. The more we take steps like this, and the more positive stories that make it to the news, the more other women will be encouraged to join our cause. The time to show up, speak up and stand out is now. These past stats are pitiful, but the future doesn’t have to be. The choices we make every day will shape the future.

Nisa Amoils, Investor and VC

My Venture Capital Background

Nisa Amoils is a venture capitalist at New York Angels, an active Board Member and entrepreneur. Scout invests in a variety of technology with focus on big data, AR/VR, robotics, drones, AI, autonomous mobility, cybersecurity, blockchain and other disruptive technologies. She is an investor in the well-known women’s co-working space, The Wing.

She has also been an angel investor since 2010 with a portfolio focus on mentoring and supporting female founders. She is a member of New York Angels where she invests in a variety of technology. Prior to that she was an entrepreneur who helped start a skincare company called vbeaute, which is still sold on QVC.

Nisa is a regular judge and panelist on CNBC, MSNBC and Fox and does podcasts on investing. She is a mentor at Grand Central Tech and Parity Partners. She is on the Advisory Board of Girls Who Invest. She is also a regular judge for the Wharton Business Plan Competition and a trustee of the Penn Design School.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

Their are numerous reasons, a big one being the lack of networks that female founders have in to all of the male funders. Other factors include unconscious bias through pattern matching, i.e. many investors ask different questions of male vs. female founders.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

Two things could drastically change the situation. VC firms need to add more female investors and more female run firms need to be put into the business of deploying capital in order for the percentage to really change.

Trish Costello, CEO and Founder of Portfolia

My Venture Capital Background

Trish Costello is recognized globally for her pioneering work in preparing general partners in venture capital, through the prestigious Kauffman Fellows Program which she co-founded in 1995 at the Kauffman Foundation and led for over a decade. Now with 550+ Kauffman Fellows in 50 countries, Kauffman Fellows hold some of the most prestigious leadership positions in venture capital and collectively deploy over $200B. From its inception, over 25% of Kauffman Fellows have been women and represent many of the women leaders of the venture world, including such luminaries as Jennifer Fonstad, Adele Oliva, Rise Stack, Trae Vassalo, Karen Kerr, Jodie Jahic, Bedy Yang, Lisa Skeete Tatum and Susan Mason. Trish went on to lead CVE Capital Corp, the holding company of the first Venture Capital Fund of Funds ($1B under management) created to endow an educational institute, and to found Portfolia, an innovative national platform of Venture Capital Funds Focused in Women’s Markets.

Trish was on the start-up team of the Kauffman Foundation’s entrepreneurial efforts, leading the Foundation’s efforts in eco-system, venture capital and resources. She also led its programs for women entrepreneurs and investors. She was an advisor to the Clinton and Bush administrations and led the National Science Foundation’s SBIR Commercialization Task Force.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

We all know the obvious reasons why so FEW women founders get funding: 1) Women entrepreneurs don’t have the rich referral networks into small world of (mostly male) venture capitals. 2) There are very few women investing partners in venture capital — fewer than one in 10 — and they’re rarely senior partners or founders who focus final investment strategies. 3) The few women-led funds have fewer resources than those run by men. 4) And probably most important, women don’t fit the VC’s mental model of what a venture-backable CEO looks or sounds like. No matter the mantel of ‘disruptor’ that VCs hold, in their own work they too often look for the familiar — the type of person that has made them money in the past

There is another, deeper issue. Much of muscular, Silicon Valley-style venture capital has turned into a form of bigger than life performance. The series Silicon Valley is funny and popular because it holds truth. Hyperbolic entrepreneurs too often create outrageous revenue projections from thin air and push solutions full of puffery. VCs compete with ever-higher valuations to ‘win’ the deal and support growth strategies without revenue or sustainable models. And nothing short of possible prison time seems to catch the attention of often preening Boards of Directors. Venture capital is going to a very tiny number of participants, who have been groomed to act in the play.

But change is coming to the industry.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

Two approaches are now being used to change the system: One is a measured ‘insider’ effort that for the first time is being used by prominent women in traditional venture capital to change the system over time. The other is a more radical approach that redesigns and disrupts the current Venture capital system with a new model, new money and new power players. Think of it as the AirBnB of Venture Capital — redefining and redesigning early stage investing.

The best example of the former ‘insider’ change is the newly announced All Raise effort, launched by 35 Women General Partners in Venture Capital, with a goals of doubling the number of women partners within 10 years. These powerhouse women VCs are strategically stepping up to lead the charge for change. This is wildly new and important as earlier generation of women leaders were unable to do.

Many early Women VCs, like Kate Mitchell and Magdalena Yesil, tell a version of the same story: It was only after I left VC that I could ‘come out’ as a woman. The only way to be in the industry was to be one of the guys, to fit into the system.’ And part of that ‘fit’ ensured they not be pigeon-holed as doing women’s deals.

These women are making a difference and aggressively moving to impact with gender balance. They’re aggressively coaching women founders and networking and preparing NextGen women VCs in traditional venture capital. They were also instrumental in creating Founders for Change, activating successful founders to select their funders based on an inclusive team. These efforts are smart and strategic, but they’re not enough. The VC system, still reliant on old models built by and for men, is ripe for disruption. Even doubling the number of women VCs in 10 years, means that only 1 out of 4 VCs will be women in 2028.

The second approach, which can result in a radical change in venture is disruptive new systems, like Portfolia. Much of venture capital still operates like the original cottage industry of the 1960s and 70s — tightly-held and opaque partnership with homogenous leaders hailing from the same Ivy League schools, depending on personal introductions for business, and investing within a 60-mile radius. While the world has become wildly diverse — women own the majority of investable assets, and people of color set the cultural trends of America — venture capital still acts out a Mad Men script. We are activating the capital of thousands of highly affluent and highly networked woman nationally in venture funds focused where women make markets, such as FemTech, Active Aging, ConsumerTech, Enterprise, and Food and AgTech. Funds are advised through ‘agent investors’ across the country, mostly women, will highly successful track records.

We remove the system’s structural inefficiencies and misalignment with the opinion leaders in emerging markets.

Change comes when we take the success fundamentals of venture capital and replace old cultures and practices with those of the emerging market-makers, in much the same way as we did in the early 90’s when venture capital moved from older east-coast generalist financiers to younger, tech-specialist west coast investors. Today, we integrate how women organize, make decisions, communicate and value to successful investment fundamentals. We focus The value-add exclusion — too much capital and entrepreneurial talent is left untapped. Our investment model is simple and puts woman-owned capital to work: 1) Lower the cost of investing; 2) Enable women to invest together, delivering a more meaningful experience; 3) Identify high-quality, high-potential solutions and teams; 4) Invest nationwide where markets are shifting to create opportunity.

Disruptive models, like Portfolia’s, have shifted the storyline. Women are the first-buyers and influencers of 65% of all venture backed companies, yet their dollars remain underutilized as investors in the market. Women are well-positioned to recognize potential breakthrough solutions, yet remain wildly underrepresented in deciding what receives funding. That’s the gap. That’s the opportunity.

Robin Lee Allen, Managing Partner, Esperance Private Equity

My Venture Capital Background

A born in Texas and raised mostly in New York, Robin Lee Allen serves as Managing Partner at Esperance Series, LLC since December 2015.

Previously, Ms. Allen was an independent contractor with the equity research desk at Lazard Capital Markets from 2011–2013, where she was responsible for researching and producing financial intelligence reports used in market-making activities.

Ms. Allen received a Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Non-Professional General Legal Studies and a Bachelor of Science specializing in Family Enterprising focusing on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Operations, both from Babson College, and a degree specializing in Applied Economics from the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University.

At the invitation of the Wharton Alliance and the Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Club Ms. Allen was a guest lecturer at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2013, where she addressed as a career choice for LGBT and minority students.

Born with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, Robin is an intersexed female. She lives in San Francisco and New York.

What I Believe Is The Root Of This Problem

It does not take 200 words to describe why women collect less money. Sexism and the soft bigotry of low expectations explain this phenomenon well enough.

What We Can Do To Solve This Problem

This can be be addressed by taking the time to include pitches by women entrepreneurs in the deal flow of VCs and other fund managers. I do this.

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