VC: Time to ‘come out as a woman’

It’s no secret that few women hold positions of power at venture capital firms.

A new study quantifies what many in the industry have reported anecdotally. According to CrunchBase data released Tuesday on TechCrunch, 7 percent of investing partners at the world’s top 100 VC firms are women.

That’s 53 women out of a total of 764 investing partners. The study found 38 of the top 100 firms have at least one female partner — 28 have one, while seven have two. CrunchBase also ranks the top VC firms in terms of their number of female partners. Sequoia Capital has two — both based in China. Canaan Partners, on Sand Hill Road, has three.

Only three firms were co-founded by women — Foster City-based Scale Venture Partners, New York and Los Angeles-based Greycroft Partners, and Palo Alto-based Floodgate. At Scale, two of the firm’s five partners are women, and at Greycroft, two of the firm’s six partners are women.

Scale co-founder and partner Kate Mitchell discussed the findings during a panel in San Francisco on Tuesday sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the National Venture Capital Association. Mitchell told the audience (which was overwhelmingly female) about succeeding in a male-dominated world.

“I really tried not to stand out as a woman. That really was not an asset,” she said. But Mitchell said that at a certain point, she decided it was time to stop wearing blue suits and ties and “come out as a woman.”

Gene Teare, head of research at CrunchBase, said the number of women in positions of power at VC firms needs to improve. With 28 of the top 100 firms  having just one female investing partner, if that one woman leaves, they’re back to zero, she said.

“Women have a toe-hold in this industry,” Teare said. “These numbers are not strong enough.”

Photo: Panelists discuss gender diversity in venture capital Tuesday at “Bridging the Gender Gap: Entrepreneurship, Women, and Investing” event. From left to right: Gene Teare, head of research at CrunchBase; Kate Mitchell, co-founder and partner at Scale Venture Partners; Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet of the U.S. Small Business Administration; and Laurie Lumenti Garty, SVP of startup services for Square 1 Bank. (Marisa Kendall/ Mercury News). 


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