Group Seeking Equality for Women in Tech Raises $11 Million

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Group Seeking Equality for Women in Tech Raises $11 Million

SAN FRANCISCO — Two years ago, fed up with stories of harassment and discrimination in Silicon Valley, a group of female venture capitalists formed a nonprofit called All Raise to focus on women’s equality.

This week, the group raised $11 million toward a target of $15 million from backers including Pivotal Ventures, the investment firm of Melinda Gates; the Reid Hoffman Foundation; and GGV Capital. The money will fund expansion plans for the next three years, said Pam Kostka, All Raise’s chief executive. It previously raised $4 million in 2018.

“We’re moving as aggressively as we can to change the ecosystem,” Ms. Kostka said.

In two years, All Raise built a network of 20,000 people across four U.S. tech hubs. The industry began adding more female investors, who now make up 13 percent of the venture industry, compared with 9 percent before. All Raise said it aimed to help push that number to 18 percent by 2028.

Yet many challenges remain. Roughly two-thirds of venture capital firms still have no female partners. Venture capital funding going to women entrepreneurs stagnated over the last year at around 12 percent. Women own just 11 percent of founder and employee equity in start-ups, according to a study conducted by Carta, a financial technology start-up.

And by some measures, harassment has worsened, according to a recent survey from Women Who Tech, a nonprofit. Forty-four percent of female founders said they had been harassed. Two-thirds said they had been propositioned for sex, up 9 percent from 2017, and one-third said they had been groped, up 7 percent from 2017.

More broadly, bigger tech companies, which began publishing diversity statistics on their work forces six years ago and have poured millions of dollars into diversity efforts, are nowhere close to gender parity and have shown even less progress on hiring more Black and Latino workers. This year, the World Economic Forum concluded that it would take women 257 years to close the employment gender gap across all industries, compared with its previous estimate of 202 years.

“We are not going to take hundreds of years of stereotyping and systemic oppression and turn that around overnight,” Ms. Kostka said. “But are we making more tangible progress? Yes.”

All Raise helps peer groups, boot camps, and mentorship programs for female and nonbinary investors and founders. It also produces data reports on the start-up industry, publishes a directory of vetted speakers and runs a program for Black female founders, When Founder Met Funder. With the new money, it plans to establish chapters in more cities and offer more programs, which it said were “oversubscribed.”

Ms. Kostka said the demand for All Raise’s programs showed that the tech industry’s lack of diversity was not caused by a lack of talent or interest from women and minorities. “We don’t have a pipeline problem,” she said. “We have a talent network problem.”

At a summit in October, 700 of its members gathered online for a virtual networking event. The mood was celebratory as Ms. Kostka rattled off success stories from women in venture capital, and inspirational videos showed sound bites from Oprah Winfrey.

But there was also a familiar frustration, as two executives who recently sued their employers, claiming discrimination and retaliation, discussed the cost of speaking up and the slow pace of change.

“People in power do not want to give up power,” said Emily Kramer, an executive who sued Carta in July. She urged people with the privilege or ability to speak out against the industry’s problems. “We are not making change fast enough,” she said.

Aileen Lee, a venture capitalist who co-founded All Raise, said the tech industry had a long way to go but added that she had noticed encouraging changes.

Five years ago, she said, “you risked being a pariah in tech by pointing out the serious deficiencies and inequities in our system.” But now, she said, “they can’t look at the data and think, ‘Oh, yeah, everything is fine.’”

Source: New York Times

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