When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke at our event at the Harvard Club recently, the audience of 500 startup community members was electrified. At that moment it became clear to me that Sandberg’s “Lean In” mantra is something that women and men in Boston’s tech community care about. After the event, I heard from a number of people who were either making their own Lean In pledges to themselves or their companies, or grappling with what they could do to create companies that would attract and retain the best people.
It’s no secret that women are a minority in the VC and tech communities. Sandberg’s speech shined a spotlight on a known, and much discussed topic. Here at NEVCA, we’re taking it on. We’re going to highlight where women are leading, and where they are not as involved as they should be.
There are some important and tough questions we need to ask. How many (or how few) women are working in Boston’s startup community? What is it like navigating the ins and outs of Boston’s startup landscape if you’re a woman? How many of our community’s venture backed companies are run by women?
Today, we’re launching the Women’s Startup Survey, which is designed to garner real numbers around exactly how many women have founded startups in Boston and how inclusive they think the community really is. We’re hoping the survey will yield a comprehensive list of women-led startups in Massachusetts, which will serve as an important resource for the community.
We are asking that both men and women take the time to answer these nine questions, which include: “Was one of your company’s co-founders a woman?” and “If you’re a female entrepreneur, do you think that being a woman has had a positive or negative impact on your ability to fundraise successfully?”
It’s true that some of these questions might make people uncomfortable. But the questions and the discussions that they spark are necessary if we want to create a startup community that’s more inclusive, supportive and positive to all entrepreneurs in the future.
This is a tech community that deeply cares — anyone in the room with Sandberg could feel it. And so now we have an opportunity to assess where we are and work to move the needle. We’re taking the first step by documenting the state of women’s involvement in tech and venture. And we’ll keep shining a light on it by benchmarking change over time.