Back in 2011, I was a female entrepreneur raising money in Silicon Valley for my toddler gaming company. I attended a tech conference, stood up on a chair, and shouted to a crowd of 500-plus attendees that I was looking for a seed investment and I was available to talk. I got one taker. Fast forward six years later, I am now an angel investor and a tech worker in the Bay Area. Looking back at this episode, I realize that having access to capital is crucial for your company to get ahead. This access to capital is all about your network, especially as a (black) woman in tech.
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When former First Lady Michelle Obama suggested that we “make more room for women in tech” in Silicon Valley, it also pertained to the powermongers of the tech megalopolis: male venture capitalists. Because men make up 94 percent of venture partners, and the closed nature of the VC industry, VCs get to operate in a siloed network, where inappropriate behaviors abound: intimidation, power abuse, sexual advances, the objectification and sexualization of female founders — the list goes on. It goes beyond the pure sexism ingrained in startup bro culture. In actuality, it is the precursor of a pervasive rape culture.
How can we transform the VC industry and its culture? Here are seven ideas:
1. Get rid of bad apples.
VC firms should systematically terminate partners and employees found to have engaged in wrongful conduct, sexual harassment, assault and rape.
Related: VCs Ask Men About the Future and Women About Failure, New Study Finds
2. Adopt a mandatory code of conduct.
Some VCs are partnering up to develop a national code of conduct. This code of conduct could be based on busting bias in day-to-day work practices and breaking pervasive behaviors of males VCs wanting to invest in people who “look like them” while objectifying and harassing the opposite sex.
3. Work towards gender parity.
VC firms could welcome more women, non-binary people and men of color as VC investment partners and pledge to get to 30/30/30 representation between non-binary people, women and men VCs by 2025. Committed VCs would lead the way and invite qualified women to join as partners right away.