There’s no doubt the number of women venture capitalists are far and few between. Annie Lamont wants to change that.
Lamont, a successful venture capitalist and wife of Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, recently shared her insights with Know Your Value’s Daniela Pierre-Bravo at the ASCEND Summit in New York City about how women can thrive in venture capital, break into the field and narrow the gender gap.
Lamont said increasing venture capital interest among women and putting pressure on partnerships to think more consciously about narrowing the gender gap could help forge a better path forward.
The good news is that progress is being made. Just five years ago, Lamont led the biggest venture capital fund raised by a woman. “Now, there have been 10, 20 female-led venture funds that have raised money, which is a great thing,” Lamont said.
Lamont, managing partner of Oak HC/FT, grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and later attended Stanford University right around the time Silicon Valley was exploding. She worked at a tech investment bank doing research and had great access to up-and-coming innovators. For example, she carried business magnate Steve Jobs’s bag at the Apple IPO roadshow and was at the firm when Genentech, the very first biotech company, went public.
“I just was passionate about these entrepreneurs,” Lamont said. “I was so excited by their vision, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” She wasn’t necessarily interested in being an entrepreneur herself but she knew she wanted to work with these individuals. “I wanted to be about seeing the future and making it happen,” she said.
She was fortunate to land a job at a venture capital firm in Westport, Conn. when she was just 25 years old. It was a stepping stone to a successful and fulfilling career.
Lamont encouraged other women who may be interested in tech to seek out a start-up. “It better be something you’re interested in in terms of product and solution; it better be a team you respect,” she said. But in terms of getting a foot in the door, Lamont believes it’s less about what you’re making initially and more about the opportunities you’ll experience.
She also had advice for women who are reluctant to speak up in the workplace. “I would say your voice is probably more important than theirs,” she explained, “in the sense that if you are the only woman in the room, you have an obligation to speak up because you may have a different perspective.”
In addition, women, she said, “have a clarity and we do listen really well,” she said. “I can tell you as a board member and a venture capitalist, listening is the most important thing.”
When it comes to confidence, Lamont said it’s important to let go of any hesitancy and communicate your message effectively. “Don’t feel like you have to overwhelm people with your opinion,” she cautioned, “but make it very clear where you stand.”