Venture capital guilty of ‘diversity washing’ says Ada Ventures

Men dominate venture capital firms when it comes to senior leadership positions and ownership of VC firms, according to new Ada Ventures research

Venture capital is guilty of “diversity washing” – supposedly having more women in senior roles, while the reality is that men hold the power.

So says Ada Ventures in its new report analysing the £6.6bn raised by VCs between 2017 and 2023 from a gender perspective.

For a start, although venture capital may trumpet its openness to women, the truth is that men dominate senior and leadership-level positions.

Female founders continue to receive less investment All-female-founded teams receive a smaller share of VC equity deals than they did ten years ago

Men account for 70 per cent of top jobs compared with 30 per cent of women, despite women making up four in ten of the VC workforce.

This is despite the increased financial performance of European VC funds with more women in senior management roles. According to the September 2023 European Women in VC report, management teams mostly composed of women outperformed men-only teams by 9.3 percentage points.

“At Ada Ventures, we passionately believe that more inclusion in venture capital will help us find better breakthrough ideas for the hardest problems we face,” said Check Warner, co-founding partner of Ada Ventures. “Inclusive strategies lead to better returns … having diverse investors at the VC level leads to funding more diverse teams and founders.”

And the figures get worse, the more you drill down into who actually owns the VC. Even if, as a woman, you sport a leadership title (founding partner, managing partner or partner), just 17.7 per cent of women have “significant ownership” compared with 27 per cent of men.

“The difference between individuals with senior titles and those with ownership of the management company highlights the need for genuine representation and inclusion in VC firms,” said Oksana Stowe, UK&I head of VC and startup ecosystem at report sponsor Google Cloud.

And all-male-owned venture capital firms also pushed female-only firms out of the way when it came to raising investment capital.

All-male-owned VC funds were ten times the size of all-woman owned funds over the period. All-female-owned funds closed just one fund in the time it took for all-male-owned funds to raise eight.

And that was the equivalent of 7p in every pound raised going to all-woman funds compared with 76p going to all-male-owned VCs.

More on VC diversity

Female founders giving up more equity to VCs than men – A report has found women are giving away 10 per cent more of their share to VCs than their male counterparts 

Related Topics

Female founders