What DEI progress has the VC industry made since the summer of 2020?

By: Maryam Haque, Executive Director, Venture Forward 

This is an important question to unpack for the venture capital (VC) industry. Venture Forward, NVCA, and Deloitte are currently fielding the fourth edition of the VC Human Capital Survey, to uncover the current state of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in VC. Our goal is to better understand what progress the industry has made (and where) since our last survey conducted in 2020. 

Since 2016, we’ve asked VC firms to come together every two years to support something bigger than any one firm, and collectively do their part for the greater good of the industry. The fact is that we can only track and measure the industry’s DEI progress—and where gaps remain—through the on-going data collection process of this survey.  

In 2016 and 2018, we had just over 200 firms participate in each of those surveys. Not surprisingly, that number spiked up to 375+ firms participating when we fielded the 2020 survey in August and September of that year. The summer of 2020 was a catalyst for reflection and action for the country and the VC industry. Many in the VC ecosystem were vocal about social justice and racial equity and made public commitments to drive positive DEI change. 

Fast forward two years, and here we are. We can’t let our foot off the gas pedal from the DEI momentum that resurfaced in 2020. Accountability is key towards advancing DEI, and we need to take honest stock of where the industry is today. We can only do that with the help of VC firms taking 30 to 45 minutes to complete the 2022 survey.  

On August 29, we launched the 2022 survey to about 2,500 active U.S.-based VC firms. 

  • If your firm has already submitted its survey, the industry thanks you!  
  • If you’re not sure if your firm has submitted its survey, contact us. 
  • If your firm has not yet submitted its survey, we ask that you please support your industry and complete the survey by the extended deadline of Friday, September 30. Contact us to receive the survey link and instructions. 

Over the past month, we’ve received feedback from firms that we’ve briefly outlined here to hopefully address similar concerns your firm may have in participating: 

  • The survey is too long. We get it. You’re busy (and now’s not a good time). We’re all busy (and it’s never a good time). Since 2016, we’ve conducted this survey every two years in the August-September period.

Unfortunately, not all firms track the same demographics or in the same structure, so the most accurate way for us to collect the underlying data across the industry is through a standardized format (that we’ve been using since 2016).  

The length of the survey is also one of the reasons why we only request this data from firms every two years. (After this week, we promise we won’t bother you again about this until 2024.)

In 2020, we sent this survey to about 1,800 firms, and 378 completed it. This year, 170+ firms have publicly committed their participation in the survey via the #VCHumanCapital pledge. We hope that their participation in this lengthy survey will also encourage your participation. 

  • Our firm doesn’t track/collect all of the data requested. That’s completely fine, and your firm is not alone. All questions have a “Not applicable,” “Unknown,” “We don’t collect” or similar option to account for this. 
  • Our firm isn’t diverse/we don’t have a DEI strategy/we aren’t where we want to be with respect to DEI. That’s OK—and your firm is not alone—but we still need you to participate. The goal of this survey is not to criticize any firm. Again, this survey is an assessment of where the industry is. It’s important for us to capture an accurate and representative snapshot of firms today.  
  • Our firm is worried about how the data will be used. We take data privacy and confidentiality very seriously. Each firm’s underlying data and information is strictly confidential. Data and information on firms and individuals will only be used in an anonymized and aggregated form, without any identifying details (similar to how we reported the results in 2020 via a PDF and interactive dashboard). NVCA and Venture Forward do not have access to identifiable underlying data and information, which is solely managed by Deloitte. 
  • Our firm has a policy against doing surveys. That’s fair and up to each firm to set those policies. But we’d strongly urge your firm to reconsider the VC Human Capital Survey in a separate category and make an exception. We aren’t here to make money from the survey or the results (or help anyone else make money from it). Venture Forward is a 501(c)(3) supporting organization to NVCA (also a nonprofit) with a mission to advance DEI in VC.  
  • Our firm recently completed another industry DEI survey. That’s great! The more industry DEI research and data we have, the better. But the VC Human Capital Survey is unique from other surveys. We’re the only survey assessing intersectional diversity across all levels and positions at VC firms regardless of sector, stage, size, geography, or current demographics. We’re also the only survey assessing industry-wide firm talent management practices and DEI strategies. 

If your firm has had discussions about supporting the advancement of DEI in VC since the summer of 2020, here’s a prime opportunity to step up to the plate.  

Learn more about the VC Human Capital Survey, including links to previous reports and dashboards. View the survey FAQs and see the 170+ VC firms who have signed the #VCHumanCapital pledge 

If you’re not at a VC firm, you can still support this initiative. Here’s how: 

  • Founders or CEOs at VC-backed startups – Ask your VC investors to participate in the survey and encourage them to sign the pledge. 
  • Limited Partners – Ask your VC fund managers to participate in the survey and encourage them to sign the pledge. 
  • Industry Service Providers – Help us spread the word among your networks and clients about the survey and the pledge