All activities of Women.VC are designed to shift the attention of the community from witch-hunt on men who has done or said something wrong about women to finding common grounds and ways to collaborate. That is why we were delighted to read Cindy's Padnos latest interview to MiBiz where she expressed her hopes for a paradigm shift in the male-dominated world of startup technology firms and early-stage funding. Traditionally, we quote some of her answers from the interview.
On strategies that can be used to create a more inclusive startup culture
I think part of the issue is that, historically, we all have natural affinities. We’re all used to working with people we know, we’ve grown up with, that we’ve been exposed to. One of the things that’s quite important is challenging ourselves to find ways to give examples to other people of how they can participate in that same kind of opportunity set.
...So let’s take Silicon Valley: Even there, which is the heart of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, you find that particularly in engineering roles, there are very few women. We have to step back and ask what’s the root cause of that.
First of all, you have to start with fundamentally having the right training and education. If we don’t do things at a very young age to demonstrate to young girls that being an engineer can be exciting, rewarding, and appropriate for them to think about, then of course they won’t choose to do that. If there aren’t good role models and examples and teachers that encourage kids in the right direction, then they don’t get the right training and education to go out and seek those careers and opportunities.
While (institutions) may always desire and hope that they’re creating a completely barrier-free environment for talent, that’s just not the reality. I think nearly 100 percent of those obstacles are unintentional. Silicon Valley likes to consider itself a meritocracy, and yet when those barriers exist, even though they may be unintentional, they’re real. I’m sticking with the gender thing here, but bias can be by race, nationality or language.
On Illuminate Ventures' strategy on inclusion
What we do from day one is try to be, first of all, very inclusive in our deal flow — in other words, the volume of opportunities that we have a chance to take a look at. We go out of our way to find opportunities that are perhaps broader than the norm.
Once we do that, we don’t ever apply any diversity-related criteria to actually evaluate an investment. We think the fundamental is that if you’re inclusive in your deal flow, you should apply the same criteria to every investment opportunity.
By having been more inclusive in our deal flow, our actual investments, it turns out, are much more inclusive in the end. Literally, in Silicon Valley today, on average, somewhere between five and 10 percent of startups have a woman co-founder. In our portfolio, it’s 40 percent — in the enterprise technology world where you don’t expect women.
There are a whole bunch of things that are different when you start out with a deal flow that’s broader and more inclusive. The results will be reflected.