Out with the old
Theresa Gattung discusses why positive discrimination is sometimes okay.
Women-only VC fund defended
Two weeks ago in Denver I listened to the wonderful global philanthropist Lynne Twist, who headed up The Hunger Project for 20 years, give a beautiful analogy about creating change in the world.
Somebody expressed anger about a current injustice, a current paradigm that wasn’t working, and she said ‘‘It’s not about taking that person out, it’s about hospicing old systems that don’t work anymore, with respect, while we midwife and birth the new systems.’’
Never is that truer than in the world of venture capital.
The current venture capital model is all about investors looking for the next ‘‘unicorn’’ (a company that quickly goes from start-up to a billion dollar value) and turning a blind eye to whatever occurs on that journey (think Uber anyone?).
We need to change this model. When I first heard about SheEO I went looking for statistics on the percentage of venture capital funding that goes to women. I quickly found the US studies which show that it is about 4 per cent. Yes, only 4 per cent. I looked
Women have been politely knocking at the door for years ... Glacial progress has been made at best. Theresa Gattung
in vain for any New Zealand data. There is none.
What you measure is what you pay attention to. Not only do we currently not measure this in New Zealand, we have dropped out of being part of a global survey which measures this.
Women have been politely knocking at the door for years. ‘‘Please let us on the board.’’ ‘‘Please let us in the executive suite.’’
‘‘Please fund our business/ businesses.’’
Glacial progress has been made at best. Take a company with two women on the executive team, 25 per cent of the board members female and they are likely to be winning awards for progress on gender matters! If it’s way less than 50 per cent, it’s still a fail.
SheEO is an initiative with potential to globally scale with its emergence in Canada and the US, and following closely behind New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands, where women do it for themselves.
We are not standing against anything, we are standing for something.
We are standing for, in many ways, the traditional view of business, that it is an honourable activity with its own rigorous discipline about meeting market needs that benefits the owners, the staff and the community that it is serving, whether that community is a local community or a global community.
I do not see this as an either/or conversation. I think there is a need to improve, enhance, and bring to a more equal position all our current business systems and structures.
My most fervent hope of our Jacinda Ardern, feminist-led, new Government is that we finally get what we have been waiting 125 years since suffrage for – comprehensive pay equity legislation. And it is ridiculous that abortion is still in the Crimes Act. The sooner this is addressed, the better.
Those who feel called to current systems and structures and work within them to improve them for the benefit of all women, of our generation and those coming behind – more power to them.
But some of us need to start giving birth to the new systems, and eventually it is going to be a circle and the two are going to join in the middle.
❚ Theresa Gattung is a former chief executive of Telecom and one of the key backers of SheEO in New Zealand.
According to Gattung, progress for women is glacial in the existing system.
Theresa Gattung: ‘‘We are not standing against anything, we are standing for something.’’