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Venture Capital Diversity Challenges

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SAN FRANCISCO — For decades the venture capital industry — made up almost entirely of white men — has had the distinction of being the most exclusive club in Silicon Valley.

Now the financiers who have funded some of the world’s most powerful companies and minted hundreds of billionaires are trying to face up to their diversity problem.

The trade group for the venture capital industry said Monday it is forming a task force to brainstorm ways to bring aboard more women and minorities.

It’s pledging to hold a series of public events in 2015 to solicit ideas on how to increase diversity in venture capital.

Kate Mitchell of Scale Venture Partners, who is serving as co-chair of the task force, said in an interview that the National Venture Capital Association is committed to “moving the needle on this.”

“Silicon Valley is about solving hard problems, and this is a hard problem,” she said. “We have to acknowledge that this is only a first step. We have to make a long-term commitment.”

Yet even the task force the National Venture Capital Association has appointed to promote diversity is not diverse.

Seven of 11 members are white men. Three are women. There are no African-Americans or Hispanics on the task force.

Mitchell says the make-up of the task force reflects the leadership of the trade group.

“I love the idea that the white guys were clamoring to be on it. This is not a check-the-box commission,” she said. “We wanted the leaders of the industry to put their stamp on it.”

Mitch Kapor, the Lotus Development Corp. founder and Silicon Valley veteran who runs the Kapor Center for Social Impact in Oakland, says the task force should represent where venture capital “wants to get to, not where they are.”

“There is something very important about the industry coming to resemble the community it is trying to serve,” Kapor said. “If you want to know at a deep level why there aren’t more African-Americans and Latinos in venture capital ranks then bring them to the table. That’s extremely important.”

The task force is being created as the technology industry is taking increasing fire for its entrenched lack of diversity.

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