Where Are The Women In Venture Capital?

Angela Lee of Columbia Business School and founder of 37 Angels

Angela Lee of Columbia Business School and founder of 37 Angels


Kat Vorotova, a Columbia Business School graduate, says different industries can play a role in the success of starting a venture. After graduating with an MBA in May of 2014, she launched her company, Try the World. Her venture allows customers to purchase gift packages (usually containing geographic-specific foods) for themselves and others.

“To be quite honest, I didn’t feel that my gender was an obstacle,” Vorotova says. “I think for some industries it might different than others. In the food business, there are several women and I don’t feel like I am a pioneer.”

Vorotova does say she believes there is a resource gender gap outside of the friendly confines of b-school walls. “The resources in school were fine,” Vorotova says. “The resources outside of business school are not equal. Many women have challenges in securing financing. Venture capital, in general, is more male dominated. There are fewer females that might understand businesses woman might be running. Getting more women to work in venture capital is definitely a challenge that needs to be overcome.”


Founder of Greenbox, an eco-conscious pizza box that was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, Jennifer Wright-Laracy says that while she does see a potential issue in raising funding, she thinks it’s more important women are encouraged and given opportunity at a young age—far before the funding pitch meeting.

“I don’t think women are encouraged early on,” Wright-Laracy says bluntly. “I don’t think there are enough mentors for women to realize they are capable. They can think big. They can start a national or international company or one that is beyond working for themselves. I think the way to encourage that in the future is having mentors for girls at the high school level and show them that it is possible. They don’t have to work for someone else and can think beyond a mom and pop type of business if they want.”

Lee says Columbia and some other schools are beginning to acknowledge this issue.

“Venture is a place that requires lots of hustle,” Lee says. “I have done studies sitting in classrooms at Columbia Business School and counted the number of comments being made by the students. I found 10 to 15 percent of the comments were made by women. It worries me that women are hesitant to raise hand.”


According to Lee, Harvard Business School is doing the most to foster inclusiveness.

“They (Harvard) have people in the classroom who monitor how inclusive the environment is for women,” Lee explains. “This is to help with confirmation bias. There’s a lot of data around confirmation bias. An example is women and math. There was a study that looked at Asian women taking math tests. Before taking the test, one group was reminded they were women and the other group was reminded they were Asian. The group that was reminded they were Asian scored 30 percent better because Asians are supposed to be good at math and women aren’t.”

Lee says there is too much confirmation bias right now surrounding women being expected to fail as entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, Darragh and Kellogg are doing what they can to offset the confirmation bias by inclusion. According to Darragh, the number of women in Kellogg’s New Venture Discovery and New Venture Development courses ranges from 30 to 36 percent—close to the 37 percent of women currently in the two-year full-time MBA program at Kellogg. And Darragh isn’t hesitant or shy to rattle off all of the successful women-led Kellogg startups.


Linda Darragh of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management


“We continue to see a number of alums having this entrepreneurial focus,” Darragh says. “One alum started Brideside, which is in the bridesmaid market. There is Gloss48, Heirlumé and TotSquad, which are four examples of Kellogg women-led businesses finding investors and are continuing to build and scale.”

In addition to introducing female entrepreneurs to female investors, Darragh says Kellogg is emphasizing the importance in communicating the market and story of business to men who most likely don’t understand. “They have to do their due diligence in building a story that explains the power of a market many men probably don’t know exists,” Darragh explains.

While slight change is occurring in B-schools and the world of venture, Lee says even more action is needed.

“What I see is a ton of dialogue and not much activity,” Lee says. “There’s so much dialogue and panels and talks. My hope is all of this dialogue will lead to action. And in 10 years the things we did now led to change. But I haven’t seen it yet.”


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