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Why are venture capitalists not employing women and continuing to feed tech’s gender gap?

Women continue to play an unfortunately small role in venture capital.

John Doerr, lead investor in ­Google, Amazon, and Netscape, was recently cornered in court to defend his firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, against charges of gender discrimination brought by former employee Ellen Pao.

Wired reporter, Davey Alba, followed the case and has determined that the gender discrimination issue is hurting venture capitalism and the tech industry.

During the trial, Pao’s attorney played an audio clip of Doerr making remarks to a large group in 2008.

If you look at the founders of Google or Amazon or Netscape, Doerr’s recorded voice said, “they all seem to be white male nerds who’ve dropped out of Harvard or Stanford, and they absolutely have no social life. When I see that pattern coming in—which was true of Google—it’s very easy to decide to invest.”

Doerr did later say that he believes women actually make better leaders than men, but regardless of that sentiment, the drastically low number of women in the VC arena is disturbing, and it has actually gotten worse.

In 2014, only 6 percent of partners at venture capital firms were women, according to a much-cited Babson College study. The figure is not only minuscule but also represents a decline from 10 percent in 1999. (Kleiner Perkins does a little better; 20 percent of its partners in 2014 were women.) Not only are venture capitalists not employing women, they’re feeding tech’s gender gap overall. VC firms strongly influence the makeup of the executive teams at the companies they invest in. And between 2011 and 2013, companies with a female CEO received only 3 percent of total VC dollars invested, the study found.

This is not only a problem in general, considering women have tremendous purchasing power and offer skill sets different from men, the current imbalance makes progress much more difficult. It will require women to step into a world that doesn’t necessarily embrace them.

One anxiety those women have is that by speaking up about discrimination they may discourage other women’s ambitions. Joanna Weidenmiller, founder of the San Francisco–­based tech recruiting company 1-Page, says women entrepreneurs trade war stories of dyeing their hair from blond to brown and choosing more modest outfits to avoid being labeled with sexist stereotypes. She says she’s been asked how she expected to climb the corporate ladder in heels and was advised to hire “a nerdy-looking guy in a hoodie.” But Weidenmiller still wants women to enter the industry. That’s the only way, she says, it’s ever going to change.

When women aren’t being welcomed into the current structure of VC firms, the likelihood of them stepping out, going their own way, is a probable alternative. As Alba reported, this occurrence is happening more frequently.

“A lot of the time there’s another, faster way to achieve culture change,” said Theresia Gouw, who along with Jennifer Fonstad shocked the industry when they announced they would be leaving their big firms to launch Aspect Ventures last year. “If you want to change something that’s not being addressed in the best way in the market, you go out and start your own company. What Jennifer and I saw here was an opportunity.”

The fact that it might be somewhat of a necessity to accept or at least step around a discriminating system is unfortunate, but empowerment to still move forward and perhaps change the traditional trajectory is definitely a good thing.