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A VC Community Introduces a Gender Quota: The Broadsheet

July 12, 2019, 12:05 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! J. Crew takes steps toward a Madewell IPO, Emmy nominations are likely to feature lots of female-led comedies, and we learn about a new kind of quota. Have a wonderful weekend.  


- A quota for VCs. Quotas are a concept that pop up plenty in diversity conversations since they've been introduced in some countries—and recently, the state of California—to address the dearth of women on boards of directors. Now, a new initiative in the Netherlands is deploying the tool to target another area of business where women are underrepresented: venture capital.

This week, 25 Dutch venture capital investors committed to a project called #FundRight that aims to bring more women—and diversity more broadly—into the VC ecosystem and fix the underfunding of female founders. "We...believe in equal access to finance and opportunities for all founders, regardless of their background or gender," the participating firms said in a statement. The pledge, to be achieved over three years, calls for the VC firms themselves to achieve 35% female representation at leadership and staff-wide levels, and demands that their future investments go to companies that also have workforces that are 35% female. A "significant percentage" of those portfolio companies should be founded by a woman. 

The VC community in the Netherlands pursued the initiative after research last year revealed that 1.6% of venture capital money in the Netherlands goes to female founders; 6.8% goes to firms led by mixed-gender teams. For comparison, in the U.S., 2.2% of all VC money went to women in 2018

The Dutch firms that have signed up so far manage 1 billion euros, which represents a quarter of the total assets under management by VC investors there. Janneke Niessen, an investor at CapitalT, co-published the study on funding for women with researcher Eva de Mol and helped conceive of #FundRight. She cited All Raise and Founders for Change as inspiration for #FundRight, and says the Dutch effort can apply to larger VC markets like the U.S. "The key is agreeing that there is a huge missed opportunity in the system as it currently is," she told me. And the quota, she says, is a crucial component. 

Critics say quotas can lead to tokenism, rather than deeper cultural change. Niessen argues that #FundRight's approach is unique in that it's self-imposed by the industry, rather than mandated by the government. "That means it’s really supported," she says. Without a quota, efforts to address the underrepresentation and underfunding of women remain "vague and voluntary," she says; a percentage goal means progress can be more easily measured.  

"We’ve tried the gentle way," she says, "that obviously doesn’t work." 

Claire Zillman 




- A Sweet move. Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture North America and No. 32 on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list, is taking over the top job across all of Accenture. The new chief executive spoke with Fortune's Alan Murray about taking the reins from interim CEO David Rowland and the potential for her to lead the company with more than $40 billion in global revenues for a decade or more. "What’s important is that you build your company to be able to capture the opportunity as it comes," Sweet says. Fortune  

- Hewson, Trump, and Houlahan walk into a plant... Lockheed Martin was set to close a plant in Coatesville, Pennsylvania where workers manufactured helicopters, citing a lack of demand for rotorcraft. After urging from President Trump, CEO Marillyn Hewson decided to keep the facility open. Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, whose district includes the plant, had also been fighting to save it. New York Times

- Immigration, state seats, and re-election. Though she's released many policy plans, Sen. Elizabeth Warren hadn't shared her plan for immigration reform until yesterday. The 2020 candidate would decriminalize border-crossing violations, dramatically scale back detention, and use executive action to get around deadlock in Congress. Other 2020 news: a ranking of which Democratic candidates are most helping Democrats win state legislative seats puts Warren and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at the top; Sen. Kamala Harris is toward the bottom of this list. Plus: The president's daughter-in-law Lara Trump is set to lead the Trump re-election campaign's efforts to reach female voters, announcing the initiative alongside Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, former White House communications aide Mercedes Schlapp, and former Fox News personality and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle. 

- Flare up. The Madewell IPO is (reportedly) happening. Reuters has three sources confirming that J. Crew has hired banks to prepare for the public offering of the denim-centric brand, pegged for after Labor Day, as part of a strategy to revive the larger retailer. The IPO would place Madewell CEO Libby Wadle at the head of her own public company. Reuters

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Mellody Hobson was promoted to co-CEO of Ariel Investments; she will purchase a portion of founder John Rogers' ownership stake and become the firm's largest shareholder. Jill McDonald was ousted as the head of Marks & Spencer's fashion business. Kate Jhaveri left her job as CMO of Amazon's Twitch to start as CMO for the NBA. Twitch also hired former BuzzFeed head of HR Lenke Taylor as chief people officer. Lagunitas Brewing Company announced Kelly Murnaghan, previously of Vans, as its new CMO. G/O Media hired Angela Persaud as SVP, head of talent. Kirsten Kliphouse, formerly of Red Hat and Microsoft, joins Google Cloud as president of North America sales. 


- Squad v. Pelosi. Four freshmen in Congress—all women of color—say they have been isolated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib said that Pelosi's opposition to some of their efforts seemed at first a way to keep the progressive flank at bay and appease moderate Democrats, but has escalated; AOC called it "the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color." Pressley called Pelosi's comments, including some she made in a recent interview with Maureen Dowd, "demoralizing." Washington Post   

- The nominations are (almost) in. When Emmy nominations are announced next week, expect female-led series to dominate the comedy category. It's a big shift from just a few years ago, when LouieSilicon Valley, and The Big Bang Theory were the frontrunners; now it's VeepFleabagThe Marvelous Mrs. MaiselRussian Doll, and more shows starring women in the top roles. Fortune

- No imposters here. Here's an interesting take on Christine Lagarde's new gig at the European Central Bank: it's a lesson in overcoming imposter syndrome. "She may not be the best qualified candidate for ECB chief, but she is not there by chance," writes Anne Sylvaine-Chassany. Financial Times

- Cut it out? The sex trafficking charges against Jeffrey Epstein resurfaced an old Vanity Fair profile of the billionaire (although that status is now in question). Writer Vicky Ward says longtime Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter cut her reporting on the sexual abuse allegations against Epstein from the piece. Carter responded by saying he "didn't have confidence in Ward's reporting." Now Kim Masters backs up Ward's account with her own experience; she claims Carter also cut incriminating material from her magazine stories in the 1990s to placate friends or celebrities. The Hollywood Reporter

Today's Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe. Share it Broadsheet with a friend. Looking for previous Broadsheets? Click here.


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