Earlier today, Dave McClure of 500 Startups wrote a controversial (surprise, surprise) TechCrunch post, exhorting women that want more representation in tech to "shut up and put your money where your mouth is." The essential point is that you can't change the ratio just by adding women speakers to conference agendas, or by investing in a few token female founders. Rather, let any woman chip away at gender imbalance by engaging in the community as an investor, one small check at a time. Even better, commit to do so publicly by taking the WIN Challenge.
Though Dave isn't the most tactful person, there's solid logic here:
ACTIVITY: Individual women make small investments of $5,000 - $10,000
- Individual women become more active, visible members of the startup ecosystem without waiting for someone to open a door; as angels, they would likely invest while holding a day job
- Startups and founders become more accustomed to working with women in key roles; rather than hiring one woman for a ten-person team, a founder could work with several female investors
CONDITIONS FOR DISRUPTION: It becomes common for startups to have multiple women involved, whether as founders, employees, advisors, or investors. Meaningful levels of gender balance in the industry can be achieved more quickly by leveraging all ecosystem roles, rather than limiting efforts to female founders and/or hiring women.
This is a great challenge and I'm accepting it. (Yes, I invest professionally, but I have yet to make my first personal investment in a private company. Not counting my own startup, which consumed every penny I had.) I'm actively looking for my first three deals. The biggest hurdle will be my own fear of being rejected for the small $5-10K checks that I can afford.
If you're a woman and you both (a) like tech and (b) want to get better gender balance, then join me and commit to engage. Or, as Dave puts it: "You don’t have to be an ass like me, but stop being a wallflower!"