A recent report on women entrepreneurs by the Kauffman Foundation identified the chief challenges to female entrepreneurship. Researchers interviewed 350 female entrepreneurs, and most cited “lack of available advisers” at the top of their list. Female professional attrition is only one reason for the scarcity of mentors for younger women.
…No amount of confidence changes the fact that the valley’s big venture capitalists are almost entirely male. The top five don’t have any female senior partners, and VC partners are 96 percent male. Twenty years ago, the partners were 97 percent male.
VCs are not funding women. According to a study by Babson College, only 2.7 percent of the 6,517 companies that received venture funding from 2011 to 2013 had women CEOs. Meanwhile, the Kauffman report found that female-run startups produce a 31 percent higher return on investment than startups run by men.
One problem with the male-dominated system is that top partners have almost never been exposed to women as professional peers. Their interaction with women is limited to their wives and daughters, and maybe executive assistants.
Male VCs who don’t have female professional peers are especially difficult to pitch on products that serve a female market. “Dozens of times, women have come and told me, I pitched to a firm and what do I hear over and over, ‘Oh, I will go home and ask my wife about it,’” says Trish Costello, an entrepreneur and founder of Portfolia, a venture capital investment platform designed for women. She is also CEO emeritus and co-founder of the Palo Alto–based Kauffman Fellows, a global training institute for venture capitalists.