Melinda Gates wants to fix the VC gender gap

Saying she’s both outraged and optimistic about gender issues in the tech world, Melinda Gates is shining a spotlight on the gender gap in venture capital.

Gates cites statistics that are “moving in the wrong direction”: Last year, average VC funding in male-founded companies rose 12 percent, while funding to female-founded startups fell 26 percent.

“The people who are running these VC funds aren’t necessarily setting out to be exclusive or discriminatory,” she wrote in Recode Tuesday. “But even so, there is a lot of evidence that unconscious biases are impacting the way female founders are received.”

Gates said “I’m putting my money where my mouth is on this one,” and asked other investors to follow her example.

Gates, who’s married to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has been well-known for her philanthropy on education and health issues, but increasingly she has also been speaking up about tech gender issues. She has started Pivotal Ventures, which is reportedly going to focus on her work on women’s issues.

“Earlier this year, I began looking to make returns-focused investments in women-led VC funds,” Gates wrote in Recode. “Not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because there are smart investments to be made and big returns to be had. I hope that other investors will follow suit.”

SiliconBeat has asked the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for more details but has not yet received a response.

Gates also asked other VCs to weigh in on how to fix the gender gap in venture capital.

Some highlights from their responses:

  • “Instead of saying, ‘It’s a pipeline problem,’ say, ‘What can I do to diversify my network?’ ” Reid Hoffman of  Greylock Partners said.
  • “At the VC level, funds should commit to treating harassment and discrimination against female founders with the same legal protections as harassment and discrimination against employees,” said Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of the Muse.
  • “The data is clear: Diversity leads to better decisions and better performance,” Theresia Gouw and Jennifer Fonstad, founding partners of Aspect Ventures, said. “How we get there continues to challenge and provoke us to be more thoughtful, more proactive and more creative.”


Photo: Bill and Melinda Gates wait to share the podium as the 2014 Commencement speakers during the commencement ceremony at Stanford University on June 15, 2014. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)


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