Wednesday 25th October, 2023

Recent statistics from Beauhurst have shown that for every £1 of capital invested in the UK in 2022, only 2p of it goes into female founded businesses. It’s a hard truth that many might be shocked by. But when we consider that female GPs are reportedly far more likely to invest in female founded companies than men, and we hear that women only make up 25% of shareholders in VC firms, the root of the issue becomes clearer. Gender bias remains deeply embedded in the VC ecosystem, even today.    

The continued underrepresentation of women in VC is what makes active support and celebration of female success across the industry so crucial. Enter: WVC: E.   

Earlier this month, the Marriott Harrison team visited Station F in Paris for the 2nd year of the annual WVC:E Summit. The event brought together 350+ female investors, GPs, LPs and founders from all across Europe to discuss a wide range of interesting topics, including the changing landscape of gender equality in the VC world. After an incredible two days of panel discussions, keynote speeches and more from a truly inspiring group of women, let’s take a moment to reflect upon why this event is so important for women in VC and the wider ecosystem.   

There’s no better time than now…   

The VC ecosystem has been adapting to a remarkably different fundraising environment this year, when compared with the venture funding rush of the years prior. Events such as these are crucial for providing founders and VCs with the tools and support needed to understand what approach will help them to acclimatise.   

A recurring piece of advice is to take this time to return to basics. A downturn presents the opportunity to reflect upon company strategy, considering exactly what the business set out to do and whether these goals are being achieved. For founders, the usual ‘growth at all costs’ approach may not be best practice in the current climate. In particular, founders should be reflecting on their user experience, where the gaps in the market remain and what problems still need solving.  

Capital is also becoming diversified, with both VCs and founders finding new, innovative approaches to sourcing deals and building relationships. Being open to fresh ideas and talent will be particularly beneficial during these times, where having a range of perspectives can unlock different opportunities. Finding new talent can be difficult, but the most successful business leaders are those who understand where their blind spots are and hire with them in mind.  

These are just a few of the key insights from WVC:E, helping founders and VCs continue to thrive during turbulent periods. The earlier the signpost of where the market is headed next, the better, allowing businesses to focus on the improvements that will be the most impactful. In times of uncertainty, collaboration remains absolutely key.  

Why the focus on women in VC?   

While the importance of events like the WVC:E Summit stretches far further than for female VC’s and founders alone, the focus on women in VC is a significant feature not to be understated. The biggest funds with high investment power are still predominantly male-only teams, so perhaps we still have further to go diversifying VC than many would assume. 

When the VC industry is facing increased turbulence, broader issues pertaining to the underrepresentation of women might be set aside. The WVC:E Summit highlighted that improving representation of women in VC is not just an issue to be resolved, but a tool to be leveraged. Diversity of perspective is of particular importance during difficult periods, enhancing creativity and driving innovation, therefore fostering and retaining female talent should remain a top priority.  

The knock-on effect that the underrepresentation of women in VC has on female founders makes this all the more pressing. Female GPs are reportedly more likely to back female founders than male investors, leaving the prospect of investment a much slimmer possibility for women when women are still poorly represented at decision-making level, particularly investment committees. By advocating for more women to be involved in venture capital, we may be able to disrupt the cycle of female founders being overlooked for investment opportunities.  

Our goal should ultimately be to create a VC ecosystem that champions female talent in the same way events such as the WVC:E Summit aim to do. This objective requires a collaborative effort across the entire community, and it’s what takes the WVC:E Summit from a great event, to an unmissable one. We’re looking forward to next year!  

Articles by Frances Spooner