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A fast path to get more women in Silicon Valley

Project Include, comprised of prominent women in Silicon Valley, is collecting and sharing data to help diversify employees at tech companies. From left: Susan Wu, Laura Gomez, Erica Baker, Ellen Pao, Tracy Chou, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Bethanye McKinney Blount, and Freada Kapor Klein.
Project Include, comprised of prominent women in Silicon Valley, is collecting and sharing data to help diversify employees at tech companies. From left: Susan Wu, Laura Gomez, Erica Baker, Ellen Pao, Tracy Chou, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Bethanye McKinney Blount, and Freada Kapor Klein. The New York Times

Like many industries, we’re finally starting to clean house in the venture capital business when it comes to gross mistreatment of some of the globe’s most talented entrepreneurs — women.

I started my career in venture capital 20 years ago and later co-founded Broadway Angels, a group of former and current venture capitalists and investors, all women. So I am very personally invested in whether the diversity conversation in Silicon Valley brings about actual, meaningful, and long-lasting change. A bill before the Legislature would go a long way in bringing about this change in a hurry.

Magdalena Yesil.jpg
Magdalena Yesil

On April 3, the Assembly Higher Education Committee passed Assembly Bill 2041, which urges the University of California’s office of the chief investment adviser to hire from a diverse pool and encourage diversity among the venture capital firms that fuel Silicon Valley’s startups and the executive teams at those start-ups.

The common belief is that venture capitalists are all-powerful. But they are not. Most have bosses -- the owners and managers of large sums of money, including asset management firms, retirement funds and university endowments, such as those of the UC system. If you’re a public school teacher or have contributed to your university, there’s a good chance that some of your money has made its way to a startup in Silicon Valley.

Opinion

Venture capitalists and executives at start-ups that they fund will change at exactly the moment that the money managers – such as UC’s chief investment officer -- demand them to change.

The industry doesn’t need quotas. It does need fund managers to make profoundly clear to venture capitalists that improving working conditions for everyone in the industry, especially women, matters. I’ve been in the technology industry long enough to know that economic pressure, rather than trying to change the way people think, is the fastest way to improve the fate of women.

Magdalena Yesil is the cofounder of Driveinformed and the founding board member of Salesforce. She can be contacted at magdalena.yesil@gmail.com.

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