Stephanie Tilenius leaves Google for Kleiner Perkins

Steven Loeb · June 23, 2012 · Short URL:

Women still have long way to go at VC firms

Updated to reflect comments from prominent women in venture capital

Women have made great strides toward equality in the United States in the past 40 years. We’ve had our first Secretary of State, our first woman astronaut and have come awfully close to having our first female President. But there are plenty of places where there is still a lot of work to be done, and Silicon Valley is no exception.

Stephanie Tilenius is leaving Google to take a position at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, according to a report from AllThingsD on Friday.

Tilenius, a former eBay executive who joined Google to head up its ecommerce division, will be an entrepreneur-in-residence at KPCB. Tilenius will be working with Mary Meeker on the Digital Growth Fund. 

This is the second female hire by KPCB in the last two months, after the firm hired Megan Quinn as Director of Products in May. Quinn was also an employee at Google before joining KPCB.

Women in venture capital

In 2011, women were 12% of those seeking capital, and represented 20.5% of those who received investments, according to the University of New Hampshire's Center for Venture Research.

“While the number of women seeking angel capital is low, the percentage that receives angel investments is comparable to that of the overall  market. These data indicate that when women do seek angel capital they lead the market yield rate by 2%.”

Renata Quintini, a venture capitalist at Felicis Venture, says that she is seeing more women see success as VCs, a trend she says is "fantastic," as long as it is earned.

"Yes, increasingly more women are joining (and being successful in) VC. I think it's a fantastic trend, as long as opportunities are not created based on 'affirmative action' initiatives. Women have a lot to contribute to the discussion and have earned a seat at the table."

Women, she says, "can spot new trends and provide unique insight based on what resonates with them." And that gives them a lot of power.

Cindy Padnos, Founder & Managing Partner of Illuminate Ventures, also says she has seen an increase in the number of women becoming VCs in the last few years, and that mainly has to do with an increase in education for women.

"When you look at the profile of successful early-stage Tech investors they frequently have previously had hands-on operating experience in a startup, often have an advanced degree – either technical or business – and have a willingness to be risk takers.  With more and more women fitting that experience and skill profile, my hope is that they will be encouraged to become investors either as angels or within a VC firm – perhaps launching one of their own as we have done with Illuminate Ventures," Padnos says.

While women have made some significant strides in venture capital firms, even in the past few year, there is still a very long way to go. 

A recent report by Forbes found that American women have a tougher time becoming partners in VC firms than their Chinese counterparts, despite the fact that United States represents nearly 70% of the global venture capital market.

Chinese firms have 13 women who have become partners; while there are 16 women in Silicon Valley firms who are venture investment partners or junior partners, but nearly none who are full partners.

Half of those 16 women listed work for Kleiner Perkins, including Meeker, Beth Seidenberg, Risa Stack and Aileen Lee.

Another Kleiner Perkins partner listed is Ellen Pao, who recently filed a sexual harassment suit against the firm, alleging that firm did nothing to end years of discrimination and persecution from her fellow partners.

One of her allegations is that she was punished for reporting the harassment through her performance reviews. Pao alleges that she was interviewed by either the people she was making the allegations against, or by people who she not work with, in order to prevent her from being promoted to full partner.

That the same firm could be, at the same time, one of the leaders in hiring women in venture capital, and yet stand accused of aiding and abetting some very serious allegations of discrimination, shows how hard it can be for women trying to break into that world.

In May, Forbes released its Midas List of the most successful venture capitalists in the last year. Of that list, only five out of 100 were women. The highest-ranking woman was Meeker, at number 42. 

The women that come along, says Sharon Weinbar, VC at ScaleVP, the more it will show the women already working in VC that they can make a difference.

“More women VCs would show the women working in startups that they’re not top-stopped, and could crack open the opportunity for more women entrepreneurs to be venture funded," Weinbar said.

Kleiner  Perkins Caufield & Byers could not be reached for comment

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