Women in VC: Rising Stars to Watch

As of 2020, women in venture capital comprise:

  • 16% of investment partner positions at VC firms
  • 24% of investment professionals who originate deals
  • 21% of those who represent the firm on the boards of portfolio companies
  • 21% of firm investment committee members
  • 18% of management company owners

These numbers represent steady progress since 2016, but the industry still has a long way to go to reach overall gender parity. Furthermore, this progress has not been experienced equally; white women represent the majority of the growth in female representation, while women of color have largely been excluded. This is why Venture Forward’s efforts to accelerate meaningful change and increase female representation in VC are always approached from an intersectional perspective.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re recognizing and celebrating 10 rising stars who are making their mark and emerging as industry leaders. We’re excited to highlight some of their early accomplishments, and cheer their continued success!

We know there are many more rising stars than those listed here, who deserve recognition for the paths they’re blazing in VC. Please help us by tagging these women on social media and sharing a bit about their accomplishments.

Meera Clark

Principal, Obvious Ventures
San Francisco, CA

Meera joined Obvious Ventures in 2019 as a Senior Associate and was promoted to Principal in 2021. She focuses on healthcare, fintech, and consumer investments. Meera also serves as a member of the All Raise Steering Committee for the organization’s Annual Summit. She’s been recognized in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List for Venture Capital and Business Insider’s 55 Rising-Star VCs. Previously, Meera helped to scale Morgan Stanley’s early-stage technology accelerator, the Multicultural Innovation Lab, focused on female and multicultural entrepreneurs. Read Meera’s 22 Healthcare Predictions for 2022.

Paige Finn Doherty

Founding Partner, Behind Genius Ventures
San Diego, CA

In 2021, at 22 years old, Paige raised $5 million for Behind Genius Ventures’s debut fund with Josh Schlisserman to invest in pre-seed and seed stage companies focused on the future of work and play. Last year, Paige also published Seed to Harvest, a children’s book for adults on VC, to better explain the industry to a wider audience. She’s the host of Seed to Harvest, a podcast centered around frameworks and tactics from a diverse array of investors, creators, and founders.

Jomayra Herrera

Partner, Reach Capital
San Francisco, CA

Jomayra joined Reach Capital in 2021 after previous investing roles at Emerson Collective and Cowboy Ventures. Her professional north star is to create a better world while establishing financial security, by investing in companies focused on education, future of work, and web3. Her notable investments to date include Career Karma, Handshake, Guild Education, and Contra. Jomayra also serves on the board of Latinx VC, WorkWhile, and Outschool.

Noelle Hutchins

Associate, Omega Funds
Boston, MA

At Omega Funds, Noelle primarily focuses on investing in oncology and inflammatory disorders. Prior to joining Omega in 2020, Noelle led scientific strategies and vetted healthcare solutions of an emerging venture of the American Heart Association. She was also a member of Pipeline Angels. She has a PhD in Immunology from Brown University. In a recent Boston Business Journal Q&A, Noelle shared more about her journey into VC, challenges facing the life science industry, and how to boost female leadership in the sector. Venture Forward fun fact: Noelle has served as a VC University ONLINE Peer Mentor for the Mentorship Program.

Nmachi Jidenma

Senior Director, Scouts & Partnerships, Sequoia Capital
Menlo Park, CA

Nmachi leads partnerships and Sequoia’s Scout seed investing program, which has included Stripe, Uber, and Notion. She is representing Sequoia in the BLCK VC Scout Network that launched last year. Prior to Sequoia, Nmachi led global channel strategy at WhatsApp.

Mariah Lichtenstern

Founding Partner & Managing Director, DiverseCity Ventures
Sacramento, CA

Mariah leads DiverseCity Ventures, which operates through two vehicles: an impact-oriented VC firm investing in pre-seed companies, and a non-profit arm that trains, incubates, and supports early-stage entrepreneurs with an aim to close the funding gap that disproportionately disadvantages under-represented founders. Mariah also serves as an advisor for the California Clean Energy Fund’s CalSEED initiative, Berkeley Skydeck, Village Capital Finance Forward, and FourthWave female founder accelerator. In 2021, Business Insider featured Mariah on a list of “solo capitalists writing a lot of checks to startups who every founder should scramble to pitch.” Venture Forward fun fact: Mariah was awarded a full scholarship and participated in Cohort 8 of VC University ONLINE.

Himalaya Rao-Potlapally

Managing Director, Black Founders Matter
Portland, OR

Himalaya is a social worker turned VC who co-launched Black Founders Matter, a $10 million seed-stage fund investing primarily in Black-led ventures. Himalaya has a background in working with seed-stage venture funds, including Portland Seed Fund. She also helped launch and manage the Angel Oregon 2019 Fund and Mid-Valley Angel Fund. Last year, Himalaya testified at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on tax inequality. She has a passion for creating capital and resource access to BIPOC founders and believes that entrepreneurship is a critical pathway for economic development in underserved communities. Venture Forward Fun Fact: Himalaya was awarded a full scholarship to Cohort 5 of VC University ONLINE. She participated in the pilot Mentorship Program as a mentee and has since returned to volunteer as a Peer Mentor.

Maria Salamanca

Partner, Unshackled Ventures
San Francisco, CA

Maria joined Unshackled in 2015 and was promoted to partner in 2021. Since then, she has been involved in 65+ investments. Unshackled invests in visionary immigrants, and sponsors visas and provides full immigration support to founders. Maria is a founding board member and vice president of Latinx VC. She has also been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 for VC and Business Insider’s Under 30 Rising Stars.

Regina Salvat

Principal, Sofinnova Investments
Boston, MA

Regina joined Sofinnova in 2020 where she focuses on therapeutics investments. She is currently a member of the board of directors for Pionyr and a board observer for Atsena. Prior to joining Sofinnova, Regina held positions at Rubius Therapeutics and Pfizer and was a strategy consultant at Huron Consulting Group. She received her PhD from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. Her work as a graduate student was later commercialized in a company, Stealth Biologics. Venture Forward fun fact: Regina is a frequent office hours host for VC University ONLINE scholarship cohorts and is a volunteer Peer Mentor for the Mentorship Program.

Jillian Williams

Principal, Cowboy Ventures
New York, NY

Jillian joined Cowboy Ventures in 2021 after five years with Anthemis Capital and is the firm’s first financial services-focused team member. She serves as the New York Chapter lead for BLCK VC, and as a mentor for Techstars and Startupbootcamp. Crain’s New York named Jillian to its 40 Under Forty 2021. Learn more about Jillian in this Q&A with BLCK VC.

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