This summer, scores of Silicon Valley elites will converge on Sun Valley, Idaho, for what has come to be known as “billionaire summer camp.” There will be dozens of jets clustered at the airport. Gaggles of press hovering around the resorts. And an army of staff tending to every conceivable request.
Conspicuously absent, at least from the conference, will be many women. Yes, there will be plenty of wives and girlfriends visible during the social activities. But the truth is that women still barely exist at the upper echelons of Silicon Valley and Wall Street. For industries that pride themselves on innovation, there is still an old boys club to a degree.
The Bros and Boys Club
Consider, for example, that less than three percent of women-owned companies are venture-funded. Adding to this is the fact that minority women founders receive less than one percent of all VC investments. In other words, “bros” are taking up the vast majority of the fuel needed to launch the next Google or AirBnB. Not only do we need more diverse leadership from women at the top levels of both tech and finance but men also need to lead the way and be a voice for offering opportunity to women.
As a woman, entrepreneur, and investor, I have a close-up view of disparities in funding opportunities. If access to funding is a gateway to success, funding for diverse founders remains constricted. Investing in diverse talent is key to unlocking innovation, elevating underserved communities, and fostering long-term economic success. During the pandemic, women, who were already facing unique challenges, fell out of the workforce disproportionately.
Disproportionate Funding and Resources
Huge discrepancies exist in access to funding and resources for women entrepreneurs seeking venture capital funding (VC). VC is a stepping stone towards the all-important initial public offering (IPO). The industry must understand that funding more women is a win/win. The math is simple. Consider, for example, that MIT’s undergraduate division is now roughly divided between men and women. By overwhelmingly funding male-run companies, VCs are passing on more highly-qualified women by default and all but ignoring nearly half of a top-tier talent pool. In order to continue making progress, we must call on the boys club to use their voice, platform and resources to invest in women not only financially but as mentors and team members.
Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!, Sheryl Sandberg of Meta (formerly Facebook) and Jane Fraser of Citi have been disruptors, and many others, have disrupted the decades-old traditions of the “old boys club.” Now the club must disrupt itself, or risk being disrupted by countries that are more female-friendly. Consider that Asia is now leading the way in funding women; as a result, they are reaping rewards that no one thought possible. As of last year, China was home to two-thirds of the world’s female billionaires, most self-made. There’s simply no excuse for the world’s second-largest economy to be creating female billionaires at four times the rate of the United States.
The Value of Diversity
We can start with more diverse talent at the highest level. Companies with a woman on the board statistically have a higher bottom line than many of their compeititors because the top down decisions women make fundamentally influence those buying into the company. Having a woman or multiple on executive teams, investing in female entrepreneurs, offering leadership roles to women and also taking on a leadership role to help women grow, are all vital in progessivley changing the scope of the future growth of tech, finance and other industries.
This is not about replacing opportunities for men but about cultivating spaces and opportunites for new ideas from those who have had different experiences than some men would have. Women are natural leaders and born networkers. We understand the importance of relationships intuitively. One of my top pieces of advice for founders is to personally connect with the person across the table. Make it clear why they have been chosen as a potential funder. This month, Jane Fraser, who last year became the first ever female CEO of Citi bank, echoed this sentiment during her commencement speech at NYU’s Stern School of Business. She talked to the graduates about an imaginary “E-school,” where “E” stood for empathy. Empathy, Fraser pointed out, is an incredibly important skill for any business person, and one that women possess in spades.
Connecting Talent and Resources
As a women and bicultural investor, my craft has evolved into creating meaningful connections with investors and entrepreneurs, many if not most of them men. I have found that what a woman founder sometimes lacks is not intelligence or empathy, but the confidence that their value will be recognized and that their empathy will be reciprocated. With rising industries across e-commerce and the shopification of beauty, fashion and many lifestyle industries typically women buy into more than man statistically, investing into women and having women on investor teams lends to new areas for growth and investments: aka more money.
We as women need to uplift eachother into roles for growth and devleopment and our male counterparts need to also be apart of that change.
Every man in tech should ask themselves, “Am I looking at women differently than men? Do I value empathy and intelligence over aggressiveness? How can I reciprocate kindness?” Of course we are always more comfortable with people who think and act like us. But technology is about thinking differently and challenging traditional paradigms—in other words, disruption. And from where I sit, the biggest opportunity in technology is clear: women.
This guest post was authored by Diane Yoo
Diane Yoo is a results-driven entrepreneur and venture capitalist with more than 15+ years of experience. As an accredited investor, she has invested in 35+ companies with a focus on diverse founders. She is in the 1% of Asian-American female founders who are also a partner. Diane has founded angel networks, venture funds, and investment networks. She is Founding Partner for a Medtech and Healthtech venture capital firm in partnership with the largest medical center of the world. With VC and accelerator expertise, she works extensively with over 700+ global companies and her firm has deployed significant capital into the startup ecosystem.
She now has become one of the only Asian- American women to run a Private Equity firm. She has launched numerous venture funds for over 15 universities across the US and has built a powerful co-investor US network with offices in Texas and New York. Diane is Co-founder of Global She Ventures, an accelerator in partnership with Rice University to catalyze global women entrepreneurs. Diane is also Co-founder to a national media platform, Identity Unveiled highlights trailblazing Asian American women who have broken barriers and become firsts in their industry. She is also an investment partner to several Silicon Valley funds including the largest women’s fund and the first FemTech fund in the nation.
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