Yes: Incubators should take a similar approach as universities

jon_soberg__1_Jon Soberg, technology investor at Blumberg Capital 

I’m actually a bit disappointed in the debate that I’ve seen over the weekend, as it looks at the issue too narrowly.

I think the debate needs to look broadly at women founders, and not focus as much on women hackers. Through the hacker lens, I think Graham is being a bit unfairly criticized. We all know that YC is about teams with very strong tech backgrounds — if you aren’t a hacker, you don’t really belong, and he has a fair point that women are under-represented today in the hacker category.

That said, I think Graham would tell you that YC has had some great women founders. I don’t believe in any incubator or investor talking about quotas, but similar to the way colleges and business schools look to build diverse classes, I think incubators benefit from the same mentality.  I went to a school called Harvey Mudd College — a small, very select engineering school. In my time, 15 percent of the students were women.  Last year, the number was over 50 percent, and I’m very proud of that statistic. The rankings and standards are the same — they just found a way to attract more of the talented women.

People should stop thinking about promoting diversity as some sort of “affirmative action” or some type of charity. it is an investment — one with immediate potential returns and definite long term benefits. Multiple studies indicate that companies with women on their boards outperform their male-only competitors.

In the past 3 years, about 15 percent of my venture firm’s investments have been in companies that were founded or co-founded by women. The female chief executives I encounter are strong, driven, and exceptional just like their male counterparts. We don’t have any specific plans to improve these numbers, but we do try to give equal opportunities. We find that the women founders can compete with anyone.

We all know that the reality is that there are too few women in positions of power in tech. We should all play a role in helping to move this in the right direction.

As investors, we can make sure women know that they can start companies and be every bit as successful as anyone else. We also need role models, and above all, I’m grateful for the strong successful women who are carrying that flag.