I have felt strangely turned off by the recent conversation about sexual harassment in venture capital, and I finally understand why. For me, the commentary over the last few weeks has been a painful reminder that I might be seen as the weaker species.
I was the victim of blatant, tabloid-style sexual harassment when I was first starting out in my career. I was even subject to some more subtle sexual harassment last week. It’s terrible for many reasons, but the most painful part of these experiences was the realization that these perpetrators saw me as inferior.
Since becoming the Chief Investment Officer for the female-focused MergeLane venture fund three years ago, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of investors who invest in women because they think it is the smart rather than the “right” thing to do. I woke up this morning realizing that this recent sexual harassment conversation has made me feel the same way I’ve felt when investors invest in women because they think it is the “charitable” thing to do.
There have been well-intentioned suggestions that this is a human rights issue and wide-spread calls for more policies and procedures to protect women. I appreciate this deeply. I want to feel safe when I am working with men in our industry. I want to be as brave as the women who have come forward when I am sexually harassed.
Far more desperately, however, I want this change to occur because the venture capital industry truly values the contributions made by women. I want venture capitalists, LPs, and entrepreneurs to actually believe that gender diversity produces better returns. I want the effort to make venture capital a safe place for women to be driven by a genuine desire to invite more women to the table, rather than by a fear of litigation or public flogging.
For those of you who have kindly asked what you can do about this issue, here are a few suggestions:
As an up-and-coming woman in venture capital, there are two specific things I wish people would do:
First, ask women to speak on non-gender related topics. I’m asked to speak about gender issues roughly ten times as frequently as I’m asked to speak about genderless business issues. I’d like to have more opportunities to be seen for my strengths as a venture capitalist.
Second, if you extend an offer to support emerging talent in the venture capital ecosystem, stop to think whether there may be an equally qualified woman who could also benefit from that offer. As an example, some of the best venture capital networking opportunities involve skiing or golfing. I am an expert skier and my business partner is an expert golfer, but I am not sure if we are as top-of-mind as our male counterparts for these opportunities.
And for whatever it is worth, writing this post has made me completely reenergized and refocused on achieving the best returns possible for the MergeLane venture fund. Thank you to all of you who believe making venture capital a safe place for women will increase venture capital performance. I look forward to proving you right.
In this Fund81 podcast episode, I invited Brad Feld, founding partner of Foundry Group, to share his thoughts on maintaining mental health in the fast-paced venture capital world and supporting portfolio companies, colleagues, friends and family wrestling with mental health issues.
SC Moatti joined the Fund81 podcast to talk about how to discover and vet products in venture capital. We talk about how VCs can spot indications of future product success, creative ways to look under the hood before investing, and the product-related questions most venture capitalists fail to ask.
I’ve seen thousands of startup investor pitches. Since I find myself offering the same feedback over and over, I thought it might be helpful to share my nine most common points of investor pitch feedback.
In this Fund81 podcast episode, we talk about something that has made our team at MergeLane better investors - the Enneagram Personality Typing System. To talk about how the Enneagram can help other VCs, I invited Kaley Klemp to join the podcast.
As a venture capitalist, I am frequently surrounded by exceptionally high-performing and inspiring people. Until recently, I had never stopped to think about the impact of that.
We are big proponents of using the 15 Commitments in the work we do in Conscious Leadership. However, as an Enneagram Type 1 who is most happy at maximum productivity, I’ve always had a hard time buying into Commitment #9, the commitment to play and rest. Until yesterday….
I am extremely disciplined and focused. However, this can also be a detriment. Anything I perceive as a distraction from my to-do list feels stressful, and I have to constantly tell myself that off-the-to-do-list opportunities are often the best opportunities. I was recently reminded of that.
For the final episode of Fund81's first season, I interviewed Jaclyn Freeman Hester from Foundry Group. As someone relatively new to the industry, she has a fresh perspective on what's compelling to institutional investors and an incredible pulse on the landscape for emerging VC managers. Enjoy!
Could I be more effective if I simply surrendered to a schedule that felt natural to me? After some serious self-reflection and experimentation, I can unequivocally say YES.
I’m trying to focus my time on opportunities to operate in my zone of genius and a few select priority areas in line with my passions and in which I feel I can make the most impact, aka my true north. To help all of us stay the course, I thought it might be helpful to share those priorities.