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Hire Women. Promote Women. And Talk About It

Hire Women. Promote Women. And Talk About It

Over the weekend, I read an assessment of the venture capital industry’s progress on bringing more women into the business and promoting them to leadership positions.

TL,DR: Not much progress.

There are more women investors than there were a year ago, but there are more male investors, too. So the percentage of female investors in venture capital went from 8.9% to 9.5%. At the same time, the share of venture funding for women-run companies has gone from “close to nothing” to “just more than nothing.”

OK …

What was of greater note to me was the allergic reaction to characterizing those promotions as being because they were women — by both the women themselves and the VCs who hired them.

I get it: Few people want to be thought of as getting a job for reasons other than pure merit.

But isn’t it fair to recognize that women have historically been kept from these jobs in the past because they were women?

And isn’t it fair to recognize that the research tells us that the bar has historically been higher for women (and people of color) than for white men in competing for promotions, not lower? And that white men have been historically been promoted based on potential, while women and people of color have been historically been promoted based on achievement?

I spent my career on Wall Street, and I’ve seen both sides of this gender coin. In fact, when I’ve been asked if being a woman in that very male environment helped or hurt my career, my answer is typically, “Yes.”

At times, being in the minority could be a real positive: When I was one of the very, very few female research analysts, you couldn’t forget me. (“Hey, you know, the woman who writes the really in-depth research reports” was much more memorable than “Hey, you know, one of the 15 guys who covers the industry. You know, the one with the brown hair.”)

And sometimes it hurt me. Likely in ways I hadn’t yet begun to understand, though with the passage of time — and lots and lots of reading on the topic of gender — I can now see some of the obstacles to breaking into the boys club more clearly.

It started at the beginning of my career, when I was assigned to “babysit” a senior banker (those exact words were used) rather than be put on the hot banking deals. And I felt it later in my career, when I was warned against expressing a view that was different from the majority’s.

This desire to strip gender — and skin color and other forms of difference — from hiring and promotion decisions is an understandable one. But the slow pace of progress tells us that we’re not yet at a place where women and people of color can be sure that their difference doesn’t matter in hiring and promotion decisions.

And for our daughters and sons’ generation, I hope that these early steps of consciously bringing more diversity into leadership roles will help us get there.

Read More Here.

CO-FOUNDER & CEO, ELLEVEST


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