Today, I’m excited to share the launch of a brand new website and dataset that aggregates information from nearly 1,000 women in venture capital. Built in partnership with Sutian Dong and Jessica Peltz, who have organized the world’s largest self-reported directory of women in VC, we’ve now exposed for the first time broad trends and perspectives from women investors all over the world.
One of my favorite parts about watching communities mature is to watch the transition from “the proud few” to “the strong many.” For me, exposing insights from this directory publicly does just that.
Five years ago, if you were to join a venture capital firm as a woman, it would have been pretty hard to “find your tribe.” Women’s advocacy organizations and initiatives like AllRaise, which launched in 2018, and reports on Black and Latina women in tech hadn’t yet been broadly disseminated among this community.
In 2016, CrunchBase reported that the percent of female decision-makers at VC firms still hovered at just around 6% of people. (Even now in 2019, it’s still not that much better, with women representing only about 10% of decision-makers among U.S. VCs.)
If these numbers are a bit hard to relate to, consider this: As a woman in VC today, there’s still only a 1 in 10 chance that you’ll be seated at a table with a fellow woman decision-maker. I don’t care who you are or how much self-confidence you have: That’s still intimidating.
Three years ago, when I joined USV, I was the only woman seated around a table of 8-10 other (male) counterparts. This was not a great feeling. Even if there is absolutely no outward hostility, aggression, or otherwise bad behavior — even if you’re one of the lucky ones who’s in a group of well-intentioned others — there’s still a mental tax to being an “only” in any environment.
Back then, I remember thinking a little bit harder before I spoke up in meetings. I remember feeling (perhaps unfairly, perhaps all in my own head) as if I had a bit less time to unpack my thoughts out loud in a group setting, as if there was a little less patience to adapt to my preferred communication style. And when it came time to make a decision, I rarely felt like I have a guaranteed “second” to back me up.
This is why the movement of women supporting women in venture has been incredible to see (and to be a part of).
That’s not to say that women always support other women in meetings. But I do believe strongly in the “first follower” effect. That is to say, if someone stands up in a public park and starts doing a crazy dance, they are a crazy person. But the second person who does it starts a movement.
It’s a lot scarier to throw an idea out to a group if you worry that it will either be misunderstood or rejected outright. The more you can relate to other people around the table or in the room, the more likely it is that someone else will jump to “plus one” or “yes and” that idea. This not only catches good ideas, but it makes it a safer space to innovate, create, and solve problems together. This is why it’s important to fill our meetings and our companies and our teams with as much diversity as possible.
The women who are a part of this Women in VC community have been supporting each other for years on deals, on due diligence, and on industry introductions. They have been leaning on each other, even before there was broader public interest and awareness about the dearth of women in this industry. And today, with the broader publication of this dataset and directory, I hope that we’ll attract even more women from even smaller markets all over the world to join the community, too.
Today, we have five other women seated around that same table at USV. And yes, while it’s certainly a much more crowded room now, it’s also a much safer one. So whether you’re an “only,” a “first follower,” or an “ally” to these groups, inclusion starts with broadening awareness. I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to read what other women in venture are thinking about all over the world.