We all know the stats. Only 2% of venture funding went to female founders in 2017, and just 8% of partners at the top venture capital firms are women. In honor of International Women’s Day, venture firm Alpha Edison wrote a Medium post about “doing something about these statistics through action.”
The post urges male and female investors to take meetings with eight women outside of their networks in the month of March. So far, 29 firms, including Canaan Partners, 8VC, and Flybridge Capital Partners, have signed the pledge to do so. People have also started using the hashtag #StartWithEight to highlight female founders and investors in the industry.
Why is this important? According to data provided by Pitchbook, many of the top firms that invest in female-founded companies tend to have women in senior-level roles themselves. In recent months, several all-male partnerships have brought in a female partner for the first time in their history, including Rebecca Kaden at Union Square Ventures, Hayley Barna at First Round Capital, and Nimi Katragadda at BoxGroup.
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Term Sheet has interviewed some of the top dealmakers in venture capital over the last several months. Here’s what the female VCs had to say when asked how venture capital can close its funding gender gap.
1. Patricia Nakache, general partner at Trinity Ventures
One thing is that the more women there are making investment decisions, the more women will get funded. It’s a natural part of tapping into existing networks. I also think the more success examples that we have of women building their ventures successfully, the more that will create new patterns of success in the eyes of venture capitalists.
2. Susan Lyne, president and founding partner of BBG Ventures
The biggest shift will happen when there are a half dozen women-led, women-founded companies that either exited as unicorns or IPOed. One of the reasons why Stitch Fix is an important IPO is because [CEO Katrina Lake] is the first of this new wave of female founders to take her company public. Everything about it is a great story.
3. Kirsten Green, founder and general partner of Forerunner Ventures
I think role models are really important. Being able to use an example, show how someone did it, and imagine yourself in those shoes is so powerful. Seeing someone like Katrina [Lake], who’s done an A-plus job all around on so many levels — as a startup founder, as a leader who scales her company, as a leader who takes her company public — is hugely empowering.
4. Kimmy Scotti, founding partner at 8VC
I think that as female entrepreneurs start to exit their companies, they will become investors and hopefully invest in diverse entrepreneurs, many of which will be female. Women need to build companies that solve our problems. I think for a long time, men have been building companies they believe solve the problems of women.
5. Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital
Over the next 18 months, there will be two or three major exits that are just too hard to ignore that will come from women or come from people of color. They will be profound exits that shock the system. Once that happens, a lot of investors will take note, and I believe that will happen by the middle of 2019. I also think that there needs to be a group of LPs who demand that their fund managers are looking at diversity and are actively looking at leveling the playing field.
6. Ann Miura-Ko, co-founding partner at Floodgate
I believe we can move the needle on female GPs pretty easily. I know for a fact there’s a ton of announcements coming out relatively soon about women being recruited into venture firms. Different firms have different motivations, but I think people are seeing that diversity is a critical piece. I think they see what I see within Floodgate, which is that it’s not just diversity of gender. If you want to have great discussions within a partnership, it’s the diversity of backgrounds that makes that happen. Gender is obviously one aspect, but we should be looking for people of color and a variety of different ways that we can enhance diversity and perspective. It’s the things you see, but it’s also the things you don’t see, that make diversity so important.
7. Cindy Whitehead, CEO of the Pink Ceiling
We talk all the time about how women need a voice. We don’t need a voice — we need power. Money is power. I say that confidently because the data shows that when women have that power, they pay it forward. They invest in other women, and they invest in their community. I want to help with access to capital, make early bets on these bright women, and give them access to mentoring.