Game. Set. Match.
Tennis pro and early-stage business investor Serena Williams took the tech and investing worlds to task in a recent CNN editorial, critiquing leaders for a widespread lack of inclusion, and for perpetuating an infrastructure that leaves Black women business owners behind.
She points out that Black female founders start out “already down a match point” because of the simultaneous racism and sexism they experience while fundraising. At present, the VC world is not a welcoming one for women in general — who received just 2.8 percent of all venture capital doled out in 2019 — or Black people — who scored only 1 percent of VC funding given out in the same year. “Black female founders exist at the intersection of these challenges, making it exponentially more difficult for them to get the funding they need,” Williams adds.
The lack of network connections also harms Black women entrepreneurs’ prospects, she continues. Investors, who are overwhelmingly white and male, tend to gravitate toward what they know and understand — which largely ends up being white, male founders.
And Black women don’t have the same familial connections within the business world, either — not to mention, Black founders simply have less intergenerational wealth to tap into.
The cumulative result is that “most Black female founders close shop before their product even reaches the market,” Williams says. “By building exclusive spaces and systems, we are missing out on the innovation and genius of so many.”
Williams placed the onus on Silicon Valley’s leaders to make change happen for Black women entrepreneurs in tech. She urged those in charge to expand both their investment portfolios and their staffs, and to be far more inclusive of non-white, non-male individuals when doing so.
“The champions for Black female founders are here to stay,” she concludes. “It’s time we all play on the same court.”