The lack of women in venture capital can trace its roots to structural problems within the industry, as well as the low take-up of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at a tertiary level.
The number of women doing these subjects has barely changed over the last several decades, leading to lower levels of representation within VC, as well as fewer female entrepreneurs.
“When it comes to women in technology, there is a huge attrition rate,” said Dr Martin Bliemel, senior lecturer and director of the Diploma in Innovation at UTS’s School of Transdisciplinary Innovation.
Dr Bliemel is moderating a panel in the upcoming Women in VC Forum, to be held on February 27.
He said there are many reasons for women dropping out of STEM subjects. He observed that while making up half the population, and being well-represented through the secondary school years in these subjects, the number of women in STEM drops substantially by the time uni comes around.
“In part it’s due to a large amount of inertia, and the fact that there aren’t a lot of role models for women in VC and entrepreneurship,” he said.
“If you end up in a program where you’re outnumbered by nine men to one woman, you’re going to be on the end of crass comments, and you won’t feel welcomed.”
Clearly, there’s a need for the #MeToo movement to have an impact in STEM subjects within universities, particularly if it’s male attitudes that are causing women to leave these subjects and seek areas of study that are more female-friendly.
“I sincerely hope that the culture is changing,” said Dr Bliemel. “According to the Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report, attitudes of women towards VC and building a business is changing and becoming more favourable, but there’s still a lot more to do.”
UTS has been offering its Transdisciplinary Innovation degrees for the last four years and the Diploma since 2017. Dr Bliemel said he hopes these programs will go some way towards eliminating unconscious bias.
“Diversity is baked into the new faculty here,” he said. “It’s designed to break down silos of all kinds, and bring various disciplines together.”
The Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation currently offers two degree and a diploma program, with a combined intake of over 300 students, and Dr Bliemel said the faculty has had to turn away large numbers of applicants, the goal being to create a stable growth trajectory.
“The student profile and gender balance is about the same as the general population,” he said. “There are perhaps slightly more women, and we are attracting students to the double degree program from disciplines as diverse as design, science, law and medicine.”
The Women in VC Forum brings together the nation’s leading female venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to examine the important barriers that still need to be overcome, as well as successful strategies for fundraising, deal sourcing and portfolio management.
It will also delve into some of the most successful best-practices. Men are encouraged to attend and join the conversation.
For more information, or to register, visit: http://www.innovationaus.com/events/Women-in-VC-Forum
The University of Technology Sydney has partnered with InnovationAus.com to present the second annual Women in VC forum on February 27.