Women are not making progress in male-dominated VC world, data shows

January 30, 2015, 12:30 PM UTC
Photograph by Aping Vision/STS Getty Images

One year ago, Fortune published research showing that just 4.2% of decision-makers at venture capital firms were female. It was a distressing finding, although not terribly surprising to anyone who has spent time in the industry’s khaki-covered corridors.

This week we decided to update and expand on our data, in order to see how things have, or haven’t, changed. The past 12 months has seen a lot of hand-wringing over the dearth of female investors, including by Newsweek in its controversial new cover story on sexism in Silicon Valley. But did any of it have an impact?

In short, no.

Last year’s report focused on “decision-makers” at U.S.-based venture capital firms that had raised at least one fund of $200 million or more, dating back to 2009. We basically researched the number of female senior partners at each firm (primarily utilizing firm websites and SEC filings) or, when the terminology differed, the most senior “layer” of investment professionals (sometimes that was “general partner” or “managing partner” or “partner,” etc.). It found 542 such decision-makers, but only 23 of them were female (4.2%).

That exact same sample of VC firms currently has 546 decision-makers, of which 24 are female. In other words, these 92 firms — which managed over $60 billion — had added only one female senior partner in the past year, despite all of the media attention (read: shaming) and discussion at industry conferences.

However, we wanted to get a broader understanding of the landscape. So we asked data provider Pitchbook to send us a list of every U.S. VC firm that has raised a fund of $100 million or more since 2009. This expanded our universe to 191 firms that had raised around $114 billion for 305 funds during the time period.

Within this broader group (inclusive of the original cohort), we found that 5.6% of decision-makers were women. In other words, women have slightly better representation in the upper echelons of smaller funds, than in larger ones.

We also looked at the overall number of female investment professionals within the larger group, no matter their level of seniority. The result here was that nearly 10% of all investment professionals (168 of 1,687) were women.

Pitchbook also sent over its own research, which took a broader view of “decision-maker.” It also finds that firms raising smaller funds are more likely to have senior female partners than are firms that raise larger funds, and also finds a small bump in senior female partners at newer firms than at firms founded prior to 2009.

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