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Half of US startups have no women on their leadership teams

Michael J. Coren


The most notable metrics of success in Silicon Valley—valuations, fundraising, decision-making power—still favor men. While women-led startups raised $12.4 billion in 2017 according to Pitchbook, an big increase over previous years, the gender gap remains large.

And it starts at the top. According to a new report from Silicon Valley Bank, only 28% of startups’ founding teams in the US include at least one woman. By contrast, half of US startups had at least one founder born outside the US. The report surveyed 1,400 startup founders and executives in the US, the UK, China, and Canada.


Looking more broadly at leadership roles, from CEO to general counsel, a slightly better picture emerges. In the US, 53% of startups had female executives and 37% had a woman on their board. But those figures still lag far behind Canada (60% of startups had female executives), the UK (57%), and China (70%).


SVB noted that startups are taking some action: 59% were trying to close the gender gap through improved workplace flexibility, recruiting strategies, and leadership development; 24% had set companywide gender-based hiring and promotion goals.

It’s never too early to start, the SVB data suggests. A founding team’s gender composition often determines its gender balance years down the line. For example, all-male founding teams were far more likely to hire women to lead HR and marketing, whereas 50% of startups with a female founder also had a woman CEO.

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