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5 Women Leaders Who Are Changing Venture Capital

At Affinity, we’re inspired to see women leaders serving as role models for so many in venture capital and beyond. Despite some recent–and important–strides in diversifying venture capital, we have a long way to go. Black and Latinx women received just 0.64% of total venture capital investment between 2018 and 2019. Overall, in 2019, only 2.7% of venture capital went to female-only founding teams

Although our commitment to diversity in venture capital must be a daily one, Women's History Month is a prime time to reflect on the opportunities ahead. As part of the journey to equality, let’s celebrate some of the individuals breaking down barriers.

Hadiyah Mujhid

Hadiyah Mujhid is the founder of the not-for-profit organization HBCUvc. At HBCUvc, Hadiyah is tackling the diversity gap in venture capital funding by nurturing the development of new VC leaders. These efforts are focused specifically on communities where entrepreneurs face barriers to accessing capital. In an interview with Yahoo! Finance, Hadiyah describes how she is “labeled as a Unicorn'' alongside the few other black women in VC. She emphasizes that the problem is pervasive. Referring to the lack of diversity among venture capitalists, she explains,

“This is not a Black problem... [or] an indigenous problem… this is a U.S. problem...If we’re not investing in places where everyone has that opportunity to... create jobs in their community, we’re losing out on growth.”

Rhiannon Davies

Rhiannon Davies is one of the founders of Sandpiper Ventures, a Nova Scotian VC founded to address the lack of venture capital that goes to women in Canada.  Its mission is that simple.  And it is proven by their recent commitment to raise $20M to invest in women-led technology. 

In an official press release from the province, Rhiannon explains “Sandpiper is driven by the need to bring more women and diversity to the venture capital ecosystem. This investment by the province will attract additional capital to the fund and to the region from across the country.”

She continues, “Sandpiper invests in women building ground-breaking technology companies, enabling innovative entrepreneurship and equitable growth opportunities.” 

Nikita Thakrar

Nikita Thakrar is the co-founder of Included VC, the first-of-its-kind global VC Fellowship. Included VC has recently selected 48 individuals from around the world to take part in the second cohort—52% of them are female, 31% of them are black, 31% are Asian, 30% are neurodiverse, and 17% are from the LGBTQ+ community.

Nikita’s long-term view of the future is clear and inspiring. In this interview with Startup Around she said, “this is only the start, we are aware this is going to take multi-generational change, but things are looking positive.” 

Samara Mejia Hernandez

Samara Mejia Hernandez is a founding partner of Chingona Ventures where the promise to invest in everyone is followed by “We care about your business.  Not what you look like.”  The name ‘Chingona’ couldn’t be better aligned with Samara and her team’s commitment to change. 

Chingona /cheen gō ná/(n)

A woman who is intelligent, fearless, and can get things done.

Focusing on industries that are experiencing profound change and founders whose backgrounds uniquely position them to create businesses in growth markets that are often overlooked, Chingona is poised to “invest in the next generation of badass founders”. 

Carmen Palafox

Carmen Palafox is a partner at MiLA Capital and the founder of 2045 Ventures, a pre-seed and seed-stage venture capital firm based in Los Angeles. 2045 Ventures’ investment philosophy is informed and driven by data that shows diverse firms outperform non-diverse firms. 

Multiple studies show that companies with diverse founding teams perform better and deliver higher returns. According to research by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 15% more likely to experience above-average profitability as compared to companies in the fourth quartile. What’s more, companies in the top quartile for “ethnic and cultural diversity” achieve profitability that is 33% higher than those in the lower quartile. 

Carmen’s track-record speaks volumes–of her prior fund investments, 42% included a female founder, a whopping 58% are led by immigrants, and 47% are led by a minority founder.

The path forward

These five leaders—who are all striving to eliminate barriers to equality, in venture capital—whether it be gender, race, or ethnicity—are inspiring positive change. Despite their vastly different approaches, they are a testament to the fact that, collectively, we can and need to make a difference.