SV Angel's David Lee Takes Heat on Gender Inequality
The tech world and the investment community have at least one thing in common: a huge gender gap.
So you've got to hand it to TechCrunch writer Joshua Constine, who tried to have a conversation about gender inequality at a TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York this morning. It was daring--if a bit awkward.
Constine was interviewing Brian Pokorny and David Lee, both managing partners of Silicon Valley Angel. The firm is widely regarded as one of the most successful, having been an early investor in such hits as Twitter and Snapchat, among others.
Constine asked the duo about gender inequality in the early-stage investment industry. He didn't ask about the leadership of the firm's portfolio companies, but rather about the composition of investment firms, which are overwhelmingly male. Only about 11 percent of senior-level venture capitalists are women, according to the National Venture Capital Association, and about half of venture firms don't have even one female partner.
Lee took the first crack at it, saying that SV Angel recognizes gender inequality as an issue for the industry as a whole. "For me, it’s important to have diversity of opinions, of backgrounds, of experiences... Because I do think [diversity] leads to better outcomes," he says. "It's something on their radar, and something we're going to be more cognizant of."
Constine picked up on the use of the word "cognizant," and went on to describe the makeup of SV Angel itself, describing the web site, as “dude, dude, even older dude, more dudes, and then a female executive assistant."
So, he asked, what's stopped SV Angel from hiring more women?
Lee replied that the firm has in general been too small, and that "hiring hasn’t been a huge priority." He pointed out that he and Pokorny had known each other since 2005, and that SV Angel was just now building out its team.
In a show of persistence rare at a live event, Constine decided not to let it go. "But you just hired another person," he said.
Lee: "Yes, that’s part of building out the team."
Constine: "But that was a guy."
At which point Pokorny and Lee talked over each other and things got garbled. It seemed that the new hire had been an intern in the office for a year. Maybe a year ago, being "cognizant" wasn’t such an issue?