Men can get a hand up just for being fun to hang out with while women must have a strong professional network to merit consideration.
Four years ago, Aileen Lee left a great job at storied venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to start her own fund — Cowboy Ventures. As one of Silicon Valley’s few female venture capitalists she knows all too well about competing as a woman in a male-dominated industry.
“You’re sitting in a boardroom with a bunch of guys,” Lee said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “It’s a hot company that’s thinking about raising their series A or their series B. Usually what we do is we make a Google Doc with a list of target investors. And people will say, ‘I was just with Jimmy Brown last weekend, he’s such a good guy! We should put him on the list.’ And someone else will be like, ‘Oh, I love that dude. He’s such a great guy.’
“And then I’ll bring up a woman. And they’ll be like ‘Oh, does she invest in security?’ It’s a totally different set of questions.”
Her conversation Swisher is worth a listen. On the show she notes that men can get a hand up just for being fun to hang out with and not rocking the boat; women investors, on the other hand, must have specific domain expertise and a strong professional network to merit consideration. That’s a big deal in the VC space, where a recent study by CrunchBase showed that of the top 100 venture firms — across the globe — only seven percent of the VCs are women.
Those numbers are not going to change dramatically any time soon. But Lee’s comments on the podcast are helpful for women who are working in male-dominated industries. The show is also worth the time for hard-headed men who think the embrace diversity but really do not.