This Venture Capitalist Is Working to Give Women Entrepreneurs Better Access to Funding
July 11, 2017
GE Reports Canada
It’s a fact: venture capital is skipping over women-led and women-founded businesses.
According to a report by Barclays Bank and the Entrepreneurs Network, male entrepreneurs are 86% more likely than women to find venture-capital funding. In 2016, 91% of investment went to companies with not even one female founder, despite the fact that “women entrepreneurs bring in 20% more revenue with 50% less money invested.”
Whitney Rockley has a thing or two to say about all that. The co-founder of McRock Capital, a venture capital investment firm headquartered in Toronto, and chair of the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, Rockley has forged a career in tech that spans two decades. She has a unique vantage on the state of women in the industry, especially when it comes to launching startups. Here she shares her thoughts on breaking in, staying positive, and supercharging your game face.
Q: Reports have found that women-led businesses receive fewer opportunities than men. Why do you think this is the case?
A: It’s so difficult to answer. Regardless of who they are, people have a habit of group-think—there’s comfortability in people that they can relate to. So, if you’re a 40-year-old white man and you have a guy who is 25 that walks in your office who reminds you of yourself, you have this feeling of “Oh, I did it, I bet they could do it too.”
I think we’re seeing the tide change when you insert open-minded women and men in the interview process, where you cut through obvious differences and peel back the onion to see another side. Then you get more women backed by VCs. But for that to happen, you still need to drive more diverse teams in the venture funds, so you have more points of views.
There is some training that women can do to super-charge their game face, and I think it’s important that they do. It’s something that I’ve worked on for my entire career. It’s one of those developmental things that women can do that instills confidence in investors.
Q: What changes have you seen in the VC-tech space for women?
A: I talk about this a fair bit because I’m seeing a lot more women in venture. It helps that it’s easier now to work in the industry without having to be in an office to get your work done.
I’ve worked with some of the best women professionals in the field. We were all starting out at the same time and what gradually happened is that when we hit our early to mid-thirties, many of the women decided to quit. Normally there was a correlation with those who got married. They weren’t going to go back to the venture industry, which you can imagine is very competitive.
For me, I’m in the office pretty much every day from 7AM and normally don’t leave before 7PM. That’s very much my generation. I’m a bit of a traditional office worker. Home is where I disconnect; when I’m going into the office, that’s when I buckle down.
But with the other investment professionals that we have on our team that are younger, there’s a lot of flexible work options now. To me, it’s all about the ability to work the way you want to work. It’s just about the deliverables. You know what you need to do and as long as you fit that into your 24-hour day, that’s what matters.
Q: Why do you think you’re seeing more women interested in the VC-tech space?
A: One factor is that people are more aware of how we have a diversity problem and are being more vocal about it, which is playing a role in attracting more women.
I think a lot of investors are more aware. They’re paying more attention when resumes hit their radar that are women. It’s not to say that a woman is going to get the job because of gender, it’s just to say that they have a shot to get the interview and be compared skill-to-skill with other candidates. I think that’s helping a lot.
A lot of industry colleagues that are partners at venture firms are making a conscious effort to recruit women, but you have to have that skill set. You won’t get the job just because you’re a woman.
Q: You’re very vocal on social media and at events about the lack of female representation. How do you deal with the inevitable trolls?
A: I am vocal but I do have a couple of rules. That is, I don’t complain. I don’t harp on negative comments, because it can be very toxic and very contagious. My social media handle is about inspiring people to go into it and make people laugh and aware of cool programs and initiatives that they may be interested in. It’s really about trying to inspire.
Q: What do you love about your job today?
A: I love, love, love helping entrepreneurs live out their dreams. Entrepreneurs have these great ideas and businesses that they’re starting and they get bootstrapped. They put everything on the line and get hungry.
Scott McDonald, my co-founder, and I love finding these hungry entrepreneurs and giving them the capital they need. The work ethic and creativity they show is off the charts. They’re only limited by their imaginations. That’s what we do and that’s what drives me.
GE is investing in the pipeline of talented women in tech. Click here to read more about GE’s goal for 2020: 20,000 women in stem roles.