Where are all the women?
Several months ago, Forbes released its annual Midas List, a list it deemed to be the “definitive ranking of the world’s smartest tech investors.” There were 100 talented, forward-thinking, tremendously intelligent people named. Though the significant majority was based out of the eminent Silicon Valley, several were representatives of the rapidly growing technology hubs of New York and Shanghai. The list included the notable companies that the individuals had invested capital of time and money into, with unicorns such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp respectfully mentioned.
The facts were correct, and yet there was a problem with the lineup. Out of the one hundred individuals praised for their successful investments, 95 were men. Only five women were listed. That is a shocking figure. Today, almost every conversation related to the workplace includes a discussion point on diversity. As Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg urges women to lean in, to push against traditional boundaries and rise to top positions with determination and grit, female financier and partner at Spark Capital Megan Quinn poignantly laments that “you can’t be what you don’t see.”
The lack of female representation in venture capital is not breaking news — Fortune recently shared that “fewer than 6% of all decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms are women.” Perceptibly feeling the effects of this statistic, former venture partner Ellen Pao filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against her employer last year, taking on VC giant Kleiner Perkins in court. Though Pao lost her suit against the firm, her willingness to confront the clear gap between male and female leaders in the space sparked an important conversation in the financial and technology communities.
I am a rising senior at New York University, and I am currently working at a venture capital firm. Originally from the Bay Area, I was drawn to my firm out of interest in learning more about and understanding the field that currently dominates economic activity back home. Unsurprisingly, my firm’s partners are male, and over the last six months of my work, I can count on one hand the amount of times I have met or spoken with female partners.
This is a challenging market to want to be a part of, to want to make a difference in. Statistically, the numbers are heavily stacked against me; if only two women are considered to have reached the pinnacle of venture capital success, am I predestined to be mediocre at best? Moreover, if I, already working in this field, perceive these challenges so distinctly, how much stronger are they felt by women just beginning to explore this financial sector? These are difficult, impactful questions to be confronted with. No professional field has ever lost by diversifying its members, diverse not only in gender but race, belief systems and more. Especially in the world of technology and innovation, where the significant majority of new companies fail, diversity should be encouraged, praised even for its ability to engage different points of view and impart new insight.
The odds are not in my favor, but I’m ready to work, to earn my seat at the table. More women should be on that list, and I intend to aid in changing the status quo.
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