Canadian VCs Lead US in Gender Parity, But Both Need Work: Report

Women hold a small fraction of venture capital leadership roles in the US and Canada. A new report suggests their clearest path to venture investing may run through corporate innovation arms.

While only 15.9 percent of corporate venture capital (CVC) leaders are women, 82.6 percent of women who hold executive or partner roles in those groups came from within the company itself or a direct competitor, according to the latest “Women in Venture” report from Highline Beta, a Canadian venture development company.

“As more corporations launch or expand their CVC arms, providing access and education for internal talent holds huge potential to catalyze change at the top, and create new paths into venture capital for women that don’t exist today,” Lauren Robinson, the firm’s general partner, wrote in an email.

That was one of the most intriguing takeaways from Highline’s Women in Venture report, released Tuesday.

Among the other highlights: Venture capital firms in the United States are slightly behind Canada in terms of the representation of female partners; 13.2 percent of US partners are women, compared with Canada’s 15.2 percent. The Canadian figure is a percentage point higher than it was last year, showing progress, the report noted.

“The intent of this report is to do more than just call attention to the numbers,” Robinson wrote. “It is to give venture capital firms, angels, and [limited partner] investors the information we need to take action.”

The report reviewed 4,500 team members in more than 300 venture capital firms in the US and Canada, as well as 903 team members within 113 active corporate venture groups. It’s the second such report done by the Vancouver, British Columbia-based firm, and the first year Highline included US data. For venture firms in the US, Highline said it looked at 168 different funds investing from pots totaling more than $5 million each, and that made more than one investment last year. These funds represent an estimated total of $65.9 billion in active investments, the report said.

Highline’s business model encompasses three areas: “startup co-creation,” through which it connects entrepreneurs and large enterprises to jointly start and fund new startups; corporate accelerators, in which it helps enterprises boost their innovation efforts by forming partners with startups; and startup investment funds.

Highline administers an angel investors “academy” that it relaunched last year. The program, which teaches women about early-stage startup investing and helps them build their networks, was originally started by Female Funders, which Highline purchased in 2017. Female Funders has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, and New York.

Tara MacLean recently made her first two angel investments after completing the Female Funders Angel Academy program.

“Angel investors and venture capitalists can have a huge impact by helping to bring more women to the table,” MacLean said in a press release. “Mentorship from an experienced investor gave me the comfort I needed to make my first angel investments.”

Bringing more women into startup investing is a goal of a number of new venture efforts. Studies show only 2 percent of women startup founders are currently getting funding, and these groups hope to increase that number by having more women in decision-making roles.

“Diversity of thought, more debate, discourse, and viewpoints to make better-informed decisions—that’s just good business sense,” Toan Huynh, a venture partner with Information Venture Partners in Toronto, said in the report.

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