In This Issue:
- Booting Up: How Two DWT Lawyers Launched a Platform for Black Leaders in Tech and Telecom
- Project W x Black and Brown Founders Black History Month campaign
- Q&A With Dana Kanze
- A Postscript
Booting Up: How Two DWT Lawyers Launched a Platform for Black Leaders in Tech and Telecom
by Jonathan Mark and Katori Rameau
Jonathan Mark and Katori Rameau, attorneys in DWT's Technology, Communications & Privacy/Security Practice Group, are leading the way to change the face of the tech and telecommunications industries. As co-founders of Black Influencers in Tech and Telecom, Jonathan and Katori aim to elevate Black professionals in those industries and, at the same time, foster innovation that corrects historical injustices and improves the lives of underserved communities. Read how.
Leadership by Black professionals in technology and telecommunications is critical to creating better products and services, end-user satisfaction, and consumer well-being. Countless examples demonstrate that Black professionals build impactful products and drive growth for large technology and telecom organizations. (See, for instance, the success of Twitter Spaces, with Black product leads.) Yet despite the proven benefits of having Black voices reflected in these spaces, telecommunication and technology companies have consistently—and, at times, intentionally—denied access to Black contributors and stunted their abilities to thrive and excel in their environment.
We established Black Influencers in Tech and Telecom (BITT) as an answer to many of the hurdles Black professionals in the industry face. BITT's mission is to identify, support, and empower the next generation of leaders in the industry. We accomplish this mission by providing meaningful professional development and networking opportunities virtually and in person in cities across the country. As attorneys serving this industry, we see firsthand the benefits of having diverse perspectives at the table, and we know that with the right access and tools, Black professionals will make a tremendously positive impact.
BITT also advocates for improvements in tech and telecom products to improve the lives of—and be equitable to—Black people and other underrepresented minorities. As technology continues to become an integral aspect of our daily lives, what began as an equity issue is quickly morphing into an issue of social justice and human rights. Algorithmic bias is rapidly masking the overt discrimination that so many have fought against for so long. Whether it is facial recognition technologies that perpetuate discrimination against people of color or consumer tech with inadvertent harmful effects on women, the failure to incorporate sufficient diversity of viewpoints and perspectives yields unintended and often negative consequences. BITT was born out of a desire to face this problem head on and to create a platform for the next leaders in this ever-connected new horizon.
So how do we do that? Here is BITT's approach:
Building Community: When looking for diverse talent, the best sources are often referrals from members within diverse communities. BITT leverages its network to host events that attract students, thought leaders, and professionals in the telecommunications and technology sectors. In a few short years we have amassed an amazing network of Black and Brown talent spanning all facets of the industry. We're always excited to add to our growing community and believe that building community requires intentionality.
Providing Access and Opportunity: These two concepts go hand in hand. After establishing a community, it is imperative that we continue to facilitate connections both within and outside of that community. BITT curates opportunities designed to connect emerging Black tech and telecom leaders to industry veterans, thought leaders, and those with the resources needed to propel their careers and forge deep connections. We share career opportunities, fundraising events, and service activities. BITT is fueled by the desire to centralize and equitize tech and telecom opportunities.
Being Intentional About Promotion of Diverse Voices: While tech and telecom companies suffer generally from a lack of Black representation, this failure is most notable at the top. This is true across the economy, as we know: In the entire Fortune 500, there are only five Black CEOs. BITT collaborates with hiring professionals at leading tech and telecom companies to identify strategic opportunities for its members and advise on best practices at those companies. BITT also leverages its network to identify internal referrals for impactful roles.
Through our work with BITT, we have already seen a positive impact on our own careers. We're proud to be part of a law firm that supports these efforts and grateful for the many professionals from private industry, government agencies, nonprofits, and other groups who are helping us boot up the Black future in tech and telecom. Together we will work to help transform an industry that is so meaningfully transforming our lives.
Project W x Black & Brown Founders Celebrate Black Woman Founders During Black History Month
To ensure the success of all woman founders, it's critical we amplify the voices of those who are most underrepresented in the workplace, boardroom, and startup ecosystem. That's why Project W is proud to partner this month with Black & Brown Founders to honor the stories and celebrate the successes of Black woman founders who leverage their vision, creativity and powerful voices to change our lives for the better.
Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter throughout the month to learn about these women and how they're building a future that’s more sustainable and more equitable. We'll also be sharing posts from Black & Brown Founders as they spotlight woman game changers as part of their Black History Month campaign that challenges investors to "Bet on Black." Follow them at @BBFounders and Twitter and Instagram.
Q&A With Dana Kanze
by Dana Kanze, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, London Business School
An Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School, Dr. Dana Kanze has performed extensive research on the gender gap in venture capital funding and is a regular and valued contributor to Project W programming. Dana has conducted a master class at three of our Women Entrepreneurs Boot Camps during which she teaches investors and founders to interrupt bias in the VC pitch process based on insights gleaned from her groundbreaking research. Dana and her colleagues' most recently published research reveals the "industry fit" problem that female founders face when they are building companies in traditionally male-dominated industries. Dana recently shared her insights and some advice for investors as to how to overcome this bias.
Q: Based on the observational and experimental studies you and your co-authors conducted, you concluded that investors penalize female founders for lack of industry fit. Tell us more about what you discovered.
In keeping with my prior work and that of other researchers as well, we confirmed that female-led ventures remain significantly disadvantaged in their efforts to raise funding vs. their male-led counterparts. Then we went on to explore additional metrics besides funding amounts. We found that female-led ventures also receive significantly lower valuations than male-led ones, and that female founders retain significantly less equity than male founders do. On all three of these important metrics—funding, valuation, and equity—we found that the disparities become more pronounced depending on industry served: female-led ventures are at a particular disadvantage when catering to male—as opposed to female—dominated industries. For instance, a female founder will experience significantly worse funding-related outcomes if she is at the helm of a fintech venture (for example, a cryptocurrency play) than a FashionTech venture (for example, a wearables play).
Q: Is the reverse the true? Do male founders innovating in female-dominated industries experience similar disparities in funding, valuation and equity ownership?
No. In contrast, our studies revealed industry focus does not affect funding-related outcomes for male-led ventures. Our results showed that—although investors rated the standalone ventures and founders similarly—they perceived a female founder to be significantly less of a fit with her venture when catering to a male-dominated as opposed to a female-dominated industry, while investors did not perceive cross-industry fit differences for the male founders with their ventures.
Q: Based on your findings, industry fit bias clearly affects the ability of female founders to succeed in certain market sectors. Do you see any broader economic implications of this bias?
Recent finance and economics studies have found that that—contingent on receiving comparable amounts of capital—female founders actually outperform their male counterparts on a variety of key performance indicators when catering to male-dominated industries. So, the misperception of fit that we find in our studies is thwarting productivity in key market sectors by handicapping female founders' ability to get the resources they need. And, confining women to the prospect of success in a subset of market sectors has downstream consequences for these female founders.
Not only are their ventures unable to survive and grow, but female founders are inhibited from accumulating personal wealth to the same extent as their male counterparts, given the valuation haircut they receive and limited equity they retain. With comparatively less opportunity to achieve successful exits and other liquidity events, financially constrained female founders are in turn less likely to become serial entrepreneurs and investors.
Q: What advice do you have for investors to disrupt this bias?
While we are hopeful that greater representation of women employed across industries will continue to chip away at the underlying bias at the heart of this industry-fit gap, in the near-term, we recommend that investors take steps to combat the bias from creeping into their decision-making.
- ⮚ Make sure that information serving as the basis for investment decisions is not ambiguous or incomplete for any candidate being evaluated. This will help prevent decision-makers from filling in the missing pieces with gendered assumptions.
- ⮚ Build consistency and comparability into data retrieval and dissemination processes from the get-go. Make sure that intake processes ask the same questions and capture the same data points from all candidates for investment (this includes founders' industry experience!).
- ⮚ Early-stage investors, investing individually or with angel groups, should seek out educational resources to improve their financial decision-making literacy. We found that lack-of-fit-driven gender gaps appear to tighten for female-led ventures when evaluated by investors with a higher degree of sophistication, suggesting that broader education will benefit both this class of investors and female founders.
Read more about the research Dana and her colleagues conducted here.
The Imperative for Quality Universal Childcare
by Neda Riskin
In our last issue of the Project W newsletter, I wrote an article reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 on working women, particularly working moms. Since that issue was published, fifty prominent women across the country signed a letter that ran as a full-page ad in the New York Times calling on the Biden Administration to create a task force dedicated to implementing a Marshall Plan for Moms. Led by Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani, the letter laments the many ways mothers have disproportionately borne the brunt of the pandemic. The letter also outlines a plan for women with children to receive a $2,400 monthly stipend for their unpaid, unseen labor and to pass policies addressing parental leave, affordable childcare, and pay equity. While the Marshall Plan for Moms does address some of the many inequities faced by women, it does so while perpetuating the antiquated belief that women are the exclusive caretakers of children. The modern American family comes in all shapes and sizes, including two father households and stay at home dads who take on traditionally 'maternal' domestic work. Women have worked tirelessly to open the door to careers, opportunities and representation that sadly did not exist mere decades ago. That being said, the call for a Marshall Plans for Moms underscores the dire need for a real investment in childcare for American families.
This country has made that kind of investment before. During World War II, millions of women were suddenly propelled into the workforce in an effort to keep the economy afloat. With many of these women having families with husbands who were off fighting the war, the US government enacted the Lanham Act of 1941 (also known as the Defense Public Works Law), subsidizing thousands of high quality childcare centers that provided free childcare to close to a million working mothers. Sadly, shortly after the war ended and men returned home to their families, the government childcare centers were deemed unnecessary and shutdown.
In the first line of her letter to President Biden, Reshma Saujani says, "Moms are the bedrock of our society…," and I wholeheartedly agree. At the same time, women should not have to sacrifice the tremendous progress made towards gender equity by reinforcing stereotypical parental roles; whether they are staying at home with their kids or pursuing a career, women should be able to decide the trajectory of their lives without penalty. If we as a society truly stand by our moms, quality universal childcare is an imperative. It shouldn't take all of the country's men leaving for war—or our society enduring a global pandemic—to recognize that moms should not be faced with a Hobson's choice between their careers and the welfare of their children.
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