Out with the old

Theresa Gat­tung dis­cusses why pos­i­tive dis­crim­i­na­tion is some­times okay.

Sunday Star-Times - - Business -

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.

123RF

Ac­cord­ing to Gat­tung, progress for women is gla­cial in the ex­ist­ing sys­tem.

STUFF BE­VAN READ/

Theresa Gat­tung: ‘‘We are not standing against any­thing, we are standing for some­thing.’’

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