VC diversity study: 11 percent of investing partners surveyed are women, none are African-American

It’s no secret that the venture capital industry in Silicon Valley and beyond tends to look largely white and male.

But in order to change those demographics, you first have to study them — something the National Venture Capital Association says VC firms tend to struggle with. So on Thursday the NVCA released its first comprehensive nation-wide survey to find out just how bad the industry’s diversity problem is.

In partnership with the Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion, the NVCA surveyed more than 2,500 employees at 217 firms of all sizes. It found women make up nearly half of the workforce, but only 11 percent of investment partners. Instead, women can be found in 95 percent of administrative roles and 75 percent of investor relations, communications or marketing roles.

The researchers suggest family obligations impact working men and women differently — the study found that 53 percent of female VC employees are married, compared to 69 percent of male VC employees. And 44 percent of female employees have dependants, compared to 56 percent of male employees.

“The historically inequitable distribution of household labor likely makes the presence of a spouse a source of support for male professionals, and a potential source of tension for female professionals juggling work and family,” the researchers wrote.

African-American employees made up only 3 percent of the survey sample — though more than 13 percent of the U.S. population is African-American — and the researchers didn’t find a single African-American investing partner.

This disparity likely is hurting VC firms’ bottom lines, the researchers wrote.

“Firms may be missing opportunities to develop relationships when they do not represent the growing population of talent in the market,” the researcher wrote.

The survey also found most VC firms could be doing more to address diversity in their offices. Just 16 percent of those surveyed have staff dedicated to diversity and inclusion efforts, and 15 percent have a “diversity strategy.” And not all firms even measure diversity — 39 percent collect no data on their employees’ race and ethnicities. Firms with strategies in place to encourage diversity tend to have more women and minorities on their staff, the survey found, and firms with mentorship programs tend to have more women in leadership positions.

“Firms have the power to change the diversity story,” the researchers wrote, “and, with these insights, we hope to support the VC industry in realizing the innovation potential of diverse and inclusive teams and begin the journey to developing the VC workforce of the future.”

Image: Screen shot of the National Venture Capital Association website. (National Venture Capital Association) 


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