– Jeff Bussgang is a General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm in Boston. This post originally appeared on Bussgang’s blog www.seeingbothsides.com. The views expressed are his own. –
I find the preponderance of males in VC an annoying and stubborn phenomenon. When I first entered the start-up game as an entrepreneur in the mid 1990s, I didn’t think much of the “VC gender gap” as there were plenty of women executives around. In fact, between one third and one half of the executive teams at my two start-ups (Open Market and Upromise) were women.
As the father of a capable, ambitious daughter, perhaps I’m over-sensitive to the issue, but since becoming a VC seven years ago, I find it amazing that only 5-10 percent of the VC industry is made up of women. Only 25 percent of all VC partnerships have a single women partner and only 7-8 percent has more than one women partner. Anecdotally, even fewer women are “management company GPs” as opposed to “employee GPs” – in other words, true owners of VC funds as opposed to deal partners. What other major industry remains 90-95 percent male-dominated? What’s the deal?
An outstanding Kauffman Institute study, “Gateways of Venture Growth,” analyzes this issue and comes up with some thoughtful but unsurprising conclusions. They point out that the industry remains very clubby, and the lack of female role models creates a self-perpetuating cycle. Professor Myra Hart of Harvard Business School writes, “Women trying to launch or further careers as VCs have fewer first-degree connections with those (men) in positions to hire or promote them.”
Another issue that holds women VCs back is the fact that the academic backgrounds of VCs tend to be in technical areas, such as computer science, engineering and biotechnology where, again, females are in the minority.