Man’s world: Women venture capitalists underperforming men, says Harvard

Women venture capitalists underperform their male counterparts by some 15 per cent, according to a new Harvard University study, but the performance differences have narrowed over time and in firms that employ more than a single female venture partner. In their study, “Gender Effects in Venture Capital”, the four researchers from Harvard and the University of Texas released blamed the performance difference in part on a lack of mentoring by male colleagues. Women outperformers often credit a male colleague who took them under his wing. That is in line with the study’s findings, based in part on interviews with 604 female VCs, that “lack of contribution” from colleagues hurt the women who didn’t do well.

It’s not so much male versus female. It’s just getting that coaching.

Rebecca Lynn, investor at Canvas Ventures

The academics based their study on venture-capital investments made between 1975 and 2003, representing 26,087 investments. Venture investments can take years to reach an outcome, making it difficult to include recent deals. The authors counted as successful the investments that led to an initial public offering of the company, or 4,622 IPOs. Only 4.6 per cent of those IPOs had a female venture capital investor. Venture capital has long struggled with low gender diversity, with some top firms not employing women investors at all.