In late 2017, Amanda Greenberg, an entrepreneur familiar with tech venture capital (VC) financing, set out to amplify the voices of other women business founders and entrepreneurs who continue to be shut out of the discussions around representation, equality, gender bias and harassment.
Greenberg, a founder and CEO of Balloonr, a cloud-based platform that helps organizations launch and vet ideas and improves team dynamics and collaboration, surveyed 94 (that’s right – ninety-four) women founders and entrepreneurs in tech. She asked them how to address the rampant sexism and power imbalances in the VC world.
The large number of respondents and responses not only illustrates the ubiquity and scope of the problem, but it drives home a larger point: If Silicon Valley is truly interested in solving this problem, the powers that be need to listen because these solutions are right under their noses.
“My team conducted a study with 94 women founders and venture capitalists to unpack their perspectives on changes needing to take place in the industry,” Greenberg wrote in a December 2017 blog post for Forbes.
“The founders interviewed have raised a combined $128 million for their companies, spanning seed to Series B+ venture rounds. They have intimate knowledge of what it’s like to raise money and what needs to shift about the process. The technology used to facilitate the study eliminated over 10 types of bias from the discussion, including groupthink, anchoring, pattern recognition and sunflower management, and allowed anonymous (but claimable) submissions of ideas and feedback. The responses highlight that a more inclusive discourse can add unique and valuable insights and ideas,” she said.
Survey questions and responses
The participants were asked three questions:
- What are some actionable ideas for how to address the challenging gender dynamics in the founder/VC relationship?
- How can/should founders hold investors (of all genders) accountable when fundraising?
- What would be helpful for our male counterparts to know about being a woman in tech?
The responses were gathered and then categorized to make it easier to analyze results.
For Question 1, the answers were grouped into five categories: Leadership Roles for Women: Feedback and Community; Education, Awareness and Workshops; Code of Conduct; and Transparency and Accountability.
“Leadership Roles for Women” was the most supported answer to the question, with 35 percent of respondents saying it would make a difference. One respondent wrote, it is important to [sic] “invest in women VC fund managers so that women founders don’t have to go to male VCs only. Currently women VCs control way less capital because LPs (those who fund VC funds) are sexists too. So women VCs raise way less money than male VCs.”
For Question 2, more than three quarters of respondents said more transparency and publishing around investors would be the best way to hold investors accountable.
One respondent wrote:
“The only way to hold investors accountable is to create an environment where good investors are rewarded and others are not. That means creating a community of transparency and visibility that highlights investors who are really focused on metrics that matter, diversity, and fair treatment. We need to share our experiences with each other [and] take some of the leverage that investors with money have.”
The final question was not categorized in order to emphasize all respondents’ suggestions. Greenberg includes the top responses that were most supported by the other participants. My personal favorite of these is this one:
“Do an honest soul search. Are your unconscious biases destroying productivity or hampering results? Some of the most hurtful actions come from men who believe they support women. Ask women around you if you have any major blind spots, listen, and be willing to become part of the solution.”
It’s a great look at how those who have to endure these issues and challenges would go about solving them. Check out Greenberg’s post when you have a chance!