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Ellen Pao might have lost her gender discrimination case against venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, but the topic of sexism and perceived inequities between men and women remains a controversial topic in Silicon Valley
Today, women represent just 5.6 percent of investment decision makers at all U.S. VC firms that have raised at least $100 million since 2009, according to Fortune Magazine and PitchBook.
Additionally, women comprise 11 percent of Silicon Valley executives at the top 150 companies. This is less than the average at the S&P 500, where they are 16 percent of executives
Theresia Gouw and Jennifer Fonstad are the co-founders of Aspect Ventures, one of the very few female-led U.S. venture firms. Together they have over forty years combined leadership in Silicon Valley and the VC world.
Gouw, a fifteen year veteran of Accel Partners, said it is important to understand the impact of what she describes as the 'unconscious bias' in Silicon Valley.
"We've all had those little inequities, those death by a thousand cuts. The person who won't speak to you and addresses all of their questions and comments to your male colleagues in the room, or being asked to take notes or fetch coffee."
Gouw's partner,Jennifer Fonstad, spent 17 years with Draper Fisher Jurvetson, until launching Aspect last year. According to Fonstad, the Pao suit has opened up an important dialogue in the tech world.
"This is an opportunity for both men and women to talk about what it is like to have a diverse culture and create an environment for both men and women to be successful," said Fonstad. "When that works and when that doesn't, then I think the unconscious bias is associated with that."
According to Gouw, one of the most effective ways to close the gender gap is by taking a page from the VC playbook.
"The fastest way to make cultural change," Gouw said, "Is when you see something that is not being met in the marketplace is to go out there and start your own firm."