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Venture Capital Still Has a Big Problem With Women

Apr 01, 2016

Fewer than 6% of all decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms are women, according to data compiled by Fortune. It is a pathetic figure, but also a slight improvement over the last time we examined the data.

Our analysis began by using PitchBook to compile a list of all U.S.-based venture capital firms that had raised at least one fund of $100 million or more since the beginning of 2011. That worked out to 282 firms that had raised over $130 billion.

We then researched each firm go determine how many investment decision-makers were women. This proved a bit tricky since not all firms use the same terminology, so we generally looked for the most senior "layer" of investment professionals. Sometimes that was "general partners," sometimes "managing directors," etc. We excluded anyone who serves primarily in CFO or other administrative positions, unless they also represent the firm on portfolio company boards. Finally, we only used current staffing, as opposed to who may have been with the firm at the time funds were raised. In short, science buttressed by a bit of art.

What we determined was that there were 906 decision-makers that fit our criteria, of which only 52 were women. This works out to 5.7%.

When we first tabulated this data in early 2014, we only used firms that had raised funds of at least $200 million, and the figure came out to 4.2%. When we did a follow-up last year, we learned that the figure was almost exactly the same, but then did a search of firms that had raised between $100 million and $199 million and learned that this cohort was 5.6% female. In other words, it suggested that smaller firms were (very) slightly more likely to have female decision-makers.

We saw the same discrepancy this time around, but only ever so slightly. Among firms that had raised funds of $200 million or more, the percentage of female decision-makers was 5.67%. For firms that had only raised funds of between $100 million and $199 million ― a much smaller group ― it was 5.97%.

It is worth noting that the actual sample of firms changes each year, because we only look back on firms that have raised funds in the past five years. Some legacy firms fall off, some new firms are introduced.

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One year ago, Ellen Pao lost her landmark gender discrimination suit against VC firm Kleiner Perkins. Many believed that the case, while not successful for Pao, would spark a wave of women being hired at venture capital firms. According to the data, however, it's been more like a small ripple.

To be sure, senior partnership positions don't turn over too often, so even a percentage point or two increase is welcome news. But given the massive disparity, it's not nearly good enough.

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