Georgetown University ranks second among the nation’s colleges and universities in graduating women who go on to lead venture capital firms, according to a report published by the investment company Different Funds.
The April 2019 report, which was included in a recent MSB press release, compares the backgrounds of general partners at emerging venture capital firms. The report finds close to 4.5% of female general partners are graduates from Georgetown, ranking second behind Harvard University with close to 5% of general partners. The report featured graduates from over 100 different universities with undergraduate programs.
The Georgetown Venture Fellows Program, a one-year apprenticeship in a venture capital or private equity firm for undergraduate and graduate students, has fostered an environment in which women at Georgetown are encouraged to join the field of venture capital, according to a Feb. 16 news release from the McDonough School of Business.
The success of women who have graduated from the program is a testament to the need for female representation and perspectives in venture capital, according to Jeff Reid, director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative.
“Venture capital is, in many ways, it’s like an exclusive club,” Reid said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “Once you get in, you have a lot of opportunities, but getting in the door is the hardest part. Getting a Venture Fellowship is a way to get in the club, and so the Venture Fellowship allows both women and men to take that first step to getting that experience.”
Across all U.S. venture capital firms, only 4.9% of partners are women, of which 33% are women of color, and 2.4% are founding partners, according to Fast Company, an American business magazine.
Barriers to women’s entry into the venture capital field can often start at the university level, according to Reid.
“Anecdotally, when I speak to a few other university entrepreneurship leaders, they often have trouble getting women to participate in their entrepreneurship programs,” Reid said. “Entrepreneurship, just like venture capital, can often be seen as an all-boys network, or a ‘bro-culture.’”
Over the last few years, Georgetown has awarded over 80% of its competition prizes, including the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Challenge, the university’s largest annual pitch competition, to women-led teams. This trend signifies the success of female students as well as their important role in business programs, according to Reid.
Estelle Spanneut (MSB ’21), a Venture Fellow in 2020, will pursue a career in the industry after graduation. Spanneut said she came to this decision after competing in the Venture Capital Investment Competition, a global business competition hosted by the University of North Carolina.
Her time as a Venture Fellow introduced her to the network required to join the world of venture capital, according to Spanneut.
“It’s really easy to say that you want to do venture capital, but it’s so much harder to get into it,” Spanneut said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “It’s a really hard industry to get into, especially as an undergrad, especially as a woman, like, all these different factors.”
The 2020 Venture Fellows class included 10 graduate students and five undergraduate fellows, marking the first time undergraduate students were invited to participate. The 2020 cohort was the largest since the program’s founding in 2015.
Working with the cohort of fellows provides female students with the networking experience that is critical to succeeding the venture capital, according to Natalie Poston (GRD ’21), another 2020 Venture Fellow.
“It’s just very network driven, and, historically, those networks have not always included women, have not always included people of color, and unfortunately you just see people hiring those in their network or that are like them,” Poston said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “So, I think breaking in is a part of it, and I think what’s great about the study is that Georgetown as a network has done really well in terms of infiltrating the V.C. industry.”