When Fortune magazine released an update to their 2014 study on women in venture capital last month concluding that (big surprise) not much has changed, I was asked to write a follow up to a blog I wrote 2 years ago titled “women: a start-up’s secret weapon”. You can access this posting here – but the key takeaway is that studies have shown when you add a woman (or a few of them) to your team, the intelligence of the group rises. Shocking right?
Since the initial 2014 study – women are still grossly underrepresented in venture capital (if you can even call 4% at the senior levels representation), not to mention in STEM (science, technology, engineering, medicine) companies across the board.
While the issue of women in venture capital is, again, front and center in the headlines as Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination case goes to trial, I want to take this opportunity to present another viewpoint – if you’re willing to listen.
First, I want make it absolutely crystal clear that I think it’s disgraceful that there is such poor representation of women in science and technology. That female entrepreneurs and CEOs may not be taken as seriously as their male counterparts. And that women have not yet managed to crack the upper echelons of the venture capital sector in any meaningful way.
Now – for the women that have managed to gain entry into the exclusive male-run world that is Venture Capital and have developed a skin thick enough to stick with it - listen closely.
this is a huge opportunity
YOU have an opportunity that all the men around you are killing themselves for.
YOU automatically stand out
YOU are ‘the other’ in the room.
While your male colleagues with their Ivy League crew cuts and uniform of khakis and golf shirts blend together like a herd of zebras, you can be star of the show. Regardless of who you have business meetings with, you are always remembered as Sarah from Pangaea Ventures as opposed to that guy from that firm in the bay area. You might even get meetings with investors or industry experts who won’t give your male counterparts the time of day, because well let’s face it, you’re a novelty!
I don’t want to even pretend that being ‘the other’ in a room is easy. That it doesn’t come with an extra level of scrutiny. That you don’t have to work extra hard to be taken seriously. And that it doesn’t present it’s own special set of challenges on top of all the others we already face as women. Yet, I would like to encourage all my female colleagues to really seize this opportunity. We already stand out just by showing up – so let’s make something of it!