Diversity in Technology and Venture Capital Firms in Silicon Valley

Diversity. Diversity appears to be on everyone’s mind in Silicon Valley and San Francisco-based tech companies. What is the make-up of the workforce in tech companies? What is the percentage of minorities? What is the percentage of women in the work force? These, and other diversity related questions is part of this conversation on diversity in this hub of innovation in San Francisco bay area.

Last year there were a series of articles on the lack of diversity in major Silicon Valley-based companies from Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and others. Google published its diversity numbers in a blog post and pointed out its “struggle” to recruit minorities and women. Google has a special diversity website, where they share how they are working on increasing diversity.

Earlier this year Intel made a $300 million commitment  and wants to become “high technology industry leader in diversity.”  Intel’s diversity initiative includes increasing the number of ethnic, veterans, LGBT and women in its work force.

The lack of women in tech companies is a point many observers make and there have been media reports, discussions and conversations on this topic. But if you switch your gaze to the Venture Capitalists (VC) industry the lack of women is quite evident as many point out. In December 2014 National Venture Capital Association (NVCP) announced the formation of NVCA diversity task force. The goal is to increase diversity among the VC community.

There are a few women in the VC world.  An article in Silicon Valley Business Journal caught my attention. Six women VCs from Silicon Valley offer their perspective on diversity in the tech industry and share their views on what women bring to the table, the lack of diversity in the industry and what advice they have for women.

The six VCs are Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures, who wrote that famous article on “The Unicorn Club.”  She previously worked at the well-known VC firm of Kleiner, Perkins Caufield and Byers, where she now serves as a strategic advisor. Rebecca Lynn of Canvas Venture Fund became a VC through a chance meeting with Garry Little of Morgenthaler Ventures while she was studying at Cal Berkeley according to this Wall Street article. Kate Mitchell  is co-founder of ScaleVP and invests in early stage companies. She is the co-chair of NVCP diversity task force. Jennifer Fonstad is co-founder of Aspect Ventures and prior to that she spent 17 years at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a well-known VC firm in the valley. Maha Ibrahim is a partner at Caanan Partners, and has been with the VC firm for 15 years and invested in quite a few women-led startups. Sonja Hoel Perkins is Managing Director of Menlo Ventures and founder of Broadway Angels, who has invested in many companies including F5 and McAfee Associates.

Hoel Perkins makes a pertinent point when she points out more positive stories about women in tech needs to be covered by media. She is right. More stories about women technologists, entrepreneurs and VCs is a great starting point to move this conversation forward and help bridge the gap.

You can follow the six VCs on Twitter at Aileen Lee, Rebecca LynnKate Mitchell, Jennifer FonstadMaha Ibrahim and Sonja Hoel Perkins.