The Investors panel at Inspirefest tackled the ongoing gender divide in Silicon Valley by getting to grips with the area they know best, venture capital.
The panel was chaired by eminent Silicon Valley journalist Kara Swisher and included top investors Sharon Vosmek, Claudia Iannazzo, Adam Quinton and Victoria Pettibone.
“Nothing has changed. Dialogue is a bit louder and some people who didn’t know the statistics do, but nothing has changed,” said Vosmek.
“There’s more talk but not much action,” agreed Quinton. “The Ellen Pao verdict created a lot of noise but didn’t clarify anything.”
The question of unconscious bias arose and Swisher interjected immediately: “It is conscious!”
She pointed to former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo who, in an article, she took to task over the fact that Twitter’s then board consisted of 10 “same-looking” white men. “It had three Peters and a Dick.”
She continued: “He called me and said it was unfair. It was a fascinating conversation because he believed it was unconscious.
“But it didn’t just happen by accident. In Silicon Valley, there are a lot of sensitive new age flowers who say ‘I can’t believe you think I’m a sexist’.”
Iannazzo said that, as well as women self-selecting themselves out of potentially rewarding careers in tech and science, the venture capital sector is responsible for its own failings.
“Today, if you don’t have women partners, it’s a conscious bias. There’s no excuse. The guys who are partners but have no women partners in their firm, that is just bias, it’s not unconscious; it’s just bias.”
Words by John Kennedy