The lack of diversity among the ranks of professional venture capitalists and their companies has been a disgrace for years.

Finally, the National Venture Capital Association is launching a “Diversity Task Force.”

But like the technology industry on which it focuses, the NVCA has a lot of work to do to change its almost-all white, male labor force.

(By the way, Art Pappas of Pass Ventures in Durham is part of the task force. He’s one of the region’s best-known VCs and is a “player” in the life science sector. He can add true gravitas to the diversity effort.)

The diversity problem is readily apparent to anyone who chooses to see it. 

Go to any venture capital conference or to an event geared to match investors with entrepreneurs and a female VC or a minority VC was a rare sight. Even as our country has become even more diverse over the past two decades, the VC industry has been a dinosaur.

The recent shedding of light on the shameful statistics on diversity disclosed by a growing number of technology companies and their pledges to address the problem no doubt influenced the NCVA’s decision to examine its own ranks.

Just ask yourself: How many female and minority VCs do you know or are you aware of in the Triangle?

To its credit, the Washington, D.C. NVCA, which represents some 400 VC firms, acknowledges the problem and noted what a survey discovered:

“According to the 2011 survey, 89 percent of investors were male and 11 percent were female. In terms of ethic diversity, 87 percent were Caucasian, nine percent were Asian, two percent were African American or Latino, and two percent were of mixed race.

“The NVCA/VentureSource study also found that younger generations of venture capital investors, CFOs and administrators are increasingly more diverse than previous generations.”

In summing up its reasons for forming the VC group, it adds:

“The NVCA Diversity Task Force will examine and develop solutions to create broader access to opportunities in venture capital and entrepreneurship. Diversity is a competitive advantage for the U.S. As much as a lack of diversity can hinder success, greater inclusion enables the best ideas to receive funding, and within an organization, enhances productivity, employee retention and overall success.”

High-profile critics such as former Triangle tech entrepreneur, author, academic and frequent TechWire contributor Vivek Wadhwa (a naturalized U.S. citizen from India) have spoken out loudly and clearly about sexism and racism in the technology industry and among VCs for years. they are FINALLY being heard.

Critics Speak Out

In October, for example, Wadhwa wrote a scathing column about the lack of diversity among VCs.

In a Washington Post column published today, Wadhwa offers some praise for the NCVA effort.

“On the surface, this looks like just another news release by an industry under fire; but I think there is much more to it. The NVCA is providing true leadership and challenging its members to clean up their act,” Wadhwa wrote.

“I have long been critical of the venture-capital community for encouraging frat-boy behavior and tolerating the exclusionary hiring practices of companies that they have invested in. I have called out the CEOs of prominent venture-backed companies such as Twitter and Dropbox andsaidthat a skill that VCs commonly tout, ‘pattern recognition,’ is a code name for sexism and racism.”

(The full post can be read at:

In fact, the  NVCA in its task force announcement notes that Wadhwa discusses the issue at a recent industry conference it hosted. 

 The group is tasked with the goal to “develop meaningful solutions to build a more inclusive, stronger innovation economy for the 21st Century.”

We’re already 14 years into the new century.

Several questions remain:

  • How serious is the NVCA about this?
  • Even if the organization is, how serious will VCs be when it comes to recruiting, hiring, promoting and retaining women and minorities? 

The NVCA says it does want “to shine a light on the diversity imbalance in venture capital and the innovation economy.”

But will VCs pay attention and change or scurry for the shadows of obscurity in order to hide from that light?

“The future of innovation in the U.S. depends on supporting diverse groups of current and aspiring venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. As the voice of the venture capital industry, we have launched the NVCA Diversity Task Force because we are committed to charting a course to expand inclusion across the innovation economy,” said Bobby Franklin, the CEO of NVCA. “The greater the number of diverse investors and entrepreneurs at the table, the greater capacity we have as a nation to innovate and bring the best ideas to bear. Working alongside the many individuals and organizations focused on increasing inclusion, we look forward to these efforts helping ensure our innovation economy reflects the diversity of our nation.”

On the Panel

The task force members does include several women at least. The list includes: 

· Kate Mitchell (Co-Chair), Founder and General Partner at Scale Venture Partners
· Ashton Newhall (Co-Chair), Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Greenspring Associates
· Scott Sandell, General Partner at New Enterprise Associates and Chairman of the NVCA Board of Directors
· Jon Callaghan, Founder and General Partner at True Ventures and Chairman-Elect of the NVCA Board of Directors
· Maria Cirino, Co-Founder and Managing Director at .406 Ventures
· Venky Ganesan, Managing Director at Menlo Ventures
· Scott Kupor, Managing Partner at Andreessen Horowitz
· Ray Leach, CEO at JumpStart Inc.
· Terry McGuire, Co-Founder and General Partner at Polaris Partners
· Art Pappas, Managing Partner at Pappas Ventures
· Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures

Here’s a tip of the Skinny’s cap to the NVCA for the effort.

But future deeds are expected, not just words and more press releases.