Amid heightened efforts to promote increasingly diverse, equitable and inclusive workforces over the past year, venture capital firms are taking note of their social and corporate responsibility. They hope to achieve greater gender, racial and ethnic diversity. These key findings are from the third edition of the “VC Human Capital Survey,” powered by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), Venture Forward and Deloitte.
Pulling data for the study
Information was collected from 378 venture capital firms. This is a significant increase from 203 firms that participated in the previous edition. It represents a total of $256.4 billion in assets under management, on their talent management practices and on the demographics of nearly 5,000 employees. The survey found that the industry has made continued progress over the past two years in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). More than two-fifths of venture capital firms surveyed have a diversity strategy (43 percent) or an inclusion strategy (41 percent). This is a significant jump from 2018. Previously, just 32 percent and 31 percent of firms surveyed reported having either a diversity or an inclusion strategy.
Greater impact of venture capital diversity
The survey reinforced findings from past years that firms with a human capital strategy have greater numbers of women and Black professionals. According to the 2020 data, venture capital firms with a diversity or inclusion strategy (or both) report that 25 percent of investment professionals are women compared to 20 percent at firms surveyed with neither strategy. In addition, 5 percent of investment professionals were Black employees at firms with one or both strategies. In comparison, firms with neither strategy only reached 3 percent.
“Many venture capital firms across the ecosystem have been prioritizing DEI. It was encouraging to see the high uptick in firms participating in the 2020 survey compared to 2018,” said Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of NVCA. “Firms acting with urgency and intentionality are leading the way. Overall, the industry is moving in the right direction; however, the representation of women and people of color in investment decision making positions remains low. We hope firms can use the survey results to reassess and prioritize human capital strategies to accelerate industry progress.”
Gender diversity registered modest gains since 2018
Women appear to remain underrepresented on investment teams and as investment decision makers at venture capital firms. Still, numbers continue to slowly trend upward. Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of investment professionals in the industry are women. This is up just two points from 21 percent in 2018. Women also hold slightly more senior-level roles at VC firms. They represent 16 percent of investment partners today compared to 14 percent in 2018. The greatest increase was recorded among junior-level female investment professionals, where representation increased to 33 percent (up from 28 percent in 2018).
New to the 2020 study, data collected on leadership responsibilities for investment professionals found that female employees represent 24 percent of those who originate deals, 21 percent of those who represent the firm on the boards of portfolio companies, 21 percent of firm investment committee members and 18 percent of management company owners.
“In some ways, this year’s data really shows us a tale of two cities when it comes to the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion at venture capital funds. I’m pleased to see the progress on cultivating increased gender diversity,” said Terri Cooper, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and vice chair of external diversity, equity and inclusion. “However, venture capital firms and all organizations have a lot of work left to do. They need to continue driving diversity, equity and inclusion among racial and ethnic minorities while moving forward on gender. Venture capital firms should prioritize diversity if they are to build a workplace environment and culture that is truly equitable and inclusive.”
Racial and ethnic minorities may not be benefiting from DEI efforts at the same rate as other demographics
Despite the progress identified in this year’s survey, much work remains. There appears to be a lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the venture capital industry. The rate at which change is taking place is slow and by no means equitable. Across surveyed firms: gender saw the most — although small — improvements. Progress for racial and ethnic minorities was limited and even retrenched in some instances.
The number of investment professionals among racial and ethnic minorities barely moved since the 2018 survey. Venture capital firms reported 4 percent Black investment professionals (compared to 3 percent in 2018) and 4 percent Hispanic or Latino investment professionals (down from 5 percent in 2018). The percentage of investment partner positions held by Black employees was 3 percent (unchanged from the prior survey). Hispanic or Latino employees accounted for 4 percent of investment partners (compared to 3 percent in 2018).
“Low turnover at firms, long investment cycles, financial risk, inherent industry failure rates and a network-driven ecosystem have made entering and succeeding in VC a challenge for anyone. It particularly impacts those from historically underrepresented groups,” said Maryam Haque, executive director of Venture Forward. “NVCA publicly launched Venture Forward last year to help address some of these challenges. There are resources for both industry newcomers and established investors to access. Recognizing the barriers to entry and success and acting with intentionality when making talent recruitment, retention and promotion decisions can drive long-term change.”
A call to action for venture capital firm diversity
The venture capital industry has a responsibility that extends far beyond returns for its investors. Firmss drive value for job markets and influence entrepreneurs. They are at the forefront of value creation through innovation for society.
“The venture capital industry carries a great social responsibility to champion DEI,” said Heather Gates, audit and assurance managing director, Deloitte & Touche LLP and audit and assurance private growth leader. “Firms may need to go beyond simply increasing the number of members of underrepresented groups in different types of positions if they are to build a workplace environment and culture that is truly inclusive. Firms should be looking across the venture capital lifecycle and stakeholders with a critical lens and strong appetite to drive systemic change.”
Similar to the first and second editions, this year’s report also identifies strategies to increase DEI to help VC firms continue moving the needle forward. This includes collecting data, setting goals for the firm and implementing a process to achieve those goals. Robust recruitment programs with an expanded network, policies for retention and requirements for promotion may also provide more opportunity to increase the diversity of a workforce.
Read the full report here.
Access the interactive dashboard here.
The “VC Human Capital Survey” is powered by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), Venture Forward and Deloitte. It assesses the state of diversity, equity and inclusion in the venture capital industry. The third edition of the ongoing series provides a source of information that allows firms to benchmark themselves against industry practices. It helps them identify innovative approaches to promote DEI. The survey gathered data from 378 venture capital firms, representing an aggregate total of $256.4 billion in assets under management, on their talent management practices and on the demographics of nearly 5,000 employees.
About the National Venture Capital Association
The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) empowers the next generation of American companies that will fuel the economy of tomorrow. As the voice of the U.S. venture capital and startup community, NVCA advocates for public policy that supports the American entrepreneurial ecosystem. Serving the venture community as the preeminent trade association, NVCA arms the venture community for success, serving as the leading resource for venture capital data, practical education, peer-led initiatives and networking. For more information about NVCA, please visit their website.
About Venture Forward
Venture Forward drives the human capital, culture, values and narrative of venture capital to promote a strong and inclusive community that will fuel the economy of tomorrow. To shape the future of venture capital, Venture Forward produces dynamic programming, data and research and strategic resources that are empowering the venture ecosystem’s ability to thrive. Venture Forward is a 501(c)(3) supporting organization to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). For more information, visit their website.
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