Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, spoke in April to a large crowd at the Harvard Club about her new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. The empowering message of Sandberg’s book that women should be more active in defining their role in business sparked a lot of discussion about gender balance in the management positions of local companies.
Sandberg’s talk also led C.A. Webb and the New England Venture Capital Association to conduct a study on the number of women in leadership roles in Boston and the opinions of local entrepreneurs on gender equality.
NEVCA’s findings were released in a report today.
One of the more eye-opening findings was that 70% of local entrepreneurs believe that the Boston startup community is not as inclusive to women as it could be.
Additionally, the report showed that female entrepreneurs felt trepidation when it came to the vital startup task of fundraising. According to the report, “Only 8% of female entrepreneurs said that being a woman had a positive impact on fundraising.”
As far as being inclusive to women, a majority of those polled didn’t believe that the Boston innovation ecosystem was very open to female entrepreneurs. The report found that “64% of respondents said that Boston’s startup community is only sometimes inclusive to female entrepreneurs,” while “6% said [it] is not at all inclusive to female entrepreneurs.” However, the report did point out that almost a third of respondents did feel that the Boston startup scene had an inclusive atmosphere for women.
Obviously, these numbers show that female entrepreneurs are not feeling very empowered in Boston, in its current state.
The report did point to the fact that there is “an extremely dynamic group of women running startups in Boston.” The NEVCA pointed to Helen Greiner of CyPhy Works, Meredith Flynn-Ripley of HeyWire, Michelle Dipp of OvaScience, Katrine Bosley of Avila Therapeutics, Bettina Hein of Pixability, Paula Long of DataGravity, Anna Palmer of Fashion Project, and Lissy Hu of Careport Health as key female leaders in the community. I would add Happier’s Nataly Kogan, Communispace’s Diane Hessan, Gradeable’s Parul Singh, and Wanderu’s Polina Raygorodskaya to that list, among others.
The report also had numbers to show that these great Boston innovation/tech leaders are the exception, not the rule. “33 % of survey respondents reported that there were no women on their management teams, 37 % had only one woman on their management teams, 17 % had two women on their management team, and only 9% had three women on their management team.”
Comparatively, C.A. Webb said the report results are not that different from results from other areas of the country. “Boston has a crop of tremendously talented female entrepreneurs,” Webb said in the report, “and [it] is doing no better or worse than any other major startup market as far as the ratio of venture-backed women to men founders.”
The report was also a call to action, stating, “Moving forward the NEVCA will tackle this issue proactively by tracking the number of women entrepreneurs receiving venture financing and continuing the conversation about creating a community that attracts and retains more women in tech.”
What are some steps that NEVCA (as well as other local tech/innovation organizations and companies) can take to make Boston, “the best place in the world to be a woman running a startup”?
Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.