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The dearth of venture capital investments in companies founded by women is an ongoing challenge, especially at the earlier stages of growth. We have spoken about this frequently over the years, as women-led companies consistently get just 2% of all VC funding in the US. This gap between the funding for companies founded by women—particularly women of color—and men is a critical barrier to overcome.

As longtime followers of the Case Foundation know, the significant infusion of venture capital at an early stage in a company’s journey can be transformative. Perhaps equally as important are the bedrock mentoring, strategic advice, and connections that come with venture capital, all of which can be catalytic for a fledgling start-up. By failing to fund female-founded companies adequately, we have seen that we are not only hindering these companies—we are missing out on valuable engines for our whole economy.

However, the data on later-stage funding is becoming a lot more promising: in 2021, 48 companies with a female founder or co-founder went public for an estimated $57 billion in exit value—more than double the number in 2020. We have a long way to go, but the growth in exits has wide-ranging impacts, including setting precedents that should, in theory, give early-stage investors more confidence in backing female-led firms. It also means that women are able to build wealth from their success, a crucial step in addressing the gender wealth gap.

How can we keep this trend going? A recent report found that the number of funds with a gender lens has increased to 206 (half of which also apply a racial lens), and to date, these funds have raised $6 billion out of a target $13 billion. That $7 billion gap represents an opportunity for investors who want to continue to turn the gender numbers around. As these funds grow, one would hope that more companies with women founders and leaders will get the capital they need to continue to grow and prosper, breaking down more of the barriers holding them—and the innovations they bring forward—behind.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Adasina Social Capital founder Rachel Robasciotti saw an opportunity for shareholder activism to make a difference. Robasciotti helped mobilize investors to support the end of forced arbitration for sexual harrassment cases at publicly-traded companies, and got results: Congress just passed bipartisan legislation ending the practice for good.
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