A Few Good Men, And Many Awesome Women
Have you met Nisa Amoils? That’s her in the photo above.
I know what you’re thinking, “Boyd, you get to chat with all the lawyers-turned-media-executives-turned-beauty-entrepreneurs-turned-venture-capitalists. It must be tough.”
I’m here to set the record straight.
Firstly, yes, I get to chat with some phenomenal men and women. But rarely do I talk about them publicly. In fact, this article is a first in that regard. Why? Because in speaking with Nisa after a panel discussion, I was impressed with her acumen on numerous counts, not the least of which is her ongoing investment in critical disruptive technology. Yes, a dizzying array of robotics, artificial intelligence, drones, virtual reality, blockchain, autonomous mobility and cybersecurity to name but a few. The lesson she gave me on VC was as good as anything I could have received in a college classroom or on a CNBC feature on Frontier Tech.
One thing I’ve found is that chatting with people like Nisa can be really tough. Why? Because if I’m not careful, my biases will kick in and influence my thinking. If you believe such biases don’t apply to you, then you need to visit your family physician and get your non-human DNA identified and properly managed. Let me explain.
Who is to blame for bias?
Let’s be honest. Women are hardly the winning majority on the starting team – or even on the bench – in many sectors. These past few months have been remarkable for showing us all how severely lacking gender equity can be in the film industry, the investment sector, the tech sector and venture capital, among others. In terms of sexual harassment and bias, we have gone from the Startup Sofa this summer to Casting Couch this fall, as the industries with the biggest power gaps go one by one. In the tech sector especially, from Uber, Caldbeck and McClure to Ellen Pao’s release of her book Reset, we’ve seen a barrage of claims of “bro culture” and sexism.
Members of the tech community and others on the periphery have been falling over themselves writing ‘value statements’ and hurriedly glueing them to their website in order to be noted as a brand of virtuousness. There were pledges written about action being taken. Hopefully those promises will be kept.
But there is a backlash. An ‘us versus them’ attitude has formed. And like all ‘us versus them’ moments throughout history, it gets weird kinda quickly. The New York Times just reported about a group in Silicon Valley that created a ‘club’ of men to reclaim tech as their last bastion of deserved power. I don’t believe there is any truth to the rumor that those tech club meetings include primal chest-beating and oversize turkey drumsticks but I’m not going to bet against it.
We’re now hearing reports that men do not want to risk having any kind of complaint leveled at them by a women, so they are turning down meetings to mentor women, or meet female entrepreneurs anywhere outside the office. These are the unintended consequences of harassment litigation elsewhere in the universe, and they hold women back.
The new face of VC doesn’t wear a Patagonia vest and khakis.
Like other industrious women in VC, Nisa is quick to point out that she has seen the positive side of men’s behavior – in VC and her prior career chapters. Yet being a former model, Nisa, as childish as this seems to you and I, has been told she’s “too pretty” or “too fashionable” to be an investor.
I put it to you that Nisa is the new face of VC. And she’s not alone. There are others right beside her. They won’t be wearing a Patagonia vest and khakis, but you’ll find them. Use talent as your filter.
The big opportunity.
We are starting to hear of men who have pledged that they will not be on a panel unless it is a 50/50 gender mix. That’s noble at face value but it misses the bigger opportunity. Want your gender-imbalanced sector to truly thrive? Don’t just tweet a pledge then take a bite of your breakfast burrito. Go find a talented woman and give her your seat. Give her your money to manage. Oh, I’m looking at you too, women in positions of influence! Cultivating new talent is at the core of achieving gender equality.
Nisa is on a crusade to have even more female investors active in VC. She is on the Board of girlswhoinvest.org and involved closely with Parity Partners. She knows that such activity will, in turn, bring a tidal wave of new women into the sector and fund more women entrepreneurs.
“With overwhelming data that diverse funds outperform their counterparts, I don’t really understand anyone’s resistance to supporting them.” Nisa Amoils
Get to know the new face of VC. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to Nisa. You don’t even need to tell her I sent you. Leave me out of it. You’ll find her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@AmoilsNisa).
Just be sure to keep your biases in check. You’re smarter than that, right?