Closing The Gap

Craig Newmark and Women Who Tech's Allyson Kapin share 3 ways men can help advance women in tech

Founder of craigslist Craig Newmark attends The Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation's Annual Rush HeARTS Education Luncheon on March 11, 2016 in New York City.
Bryan Bedder | Getty Images

In 2018, female-founded startups received just 2.2% of all venture capital funding for the second year in a row. Startups founded by women of color received less than 1%.

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Women Who Tech founder Allyson Kapin want to improve these statistics. They've started the Women Startup Challenge in an effort to close the funding gap that female entrepreneurs face.

In May, they held their eighth startup challenge in New York. Ten women-led startups pitched their business to tech executives and investors, with the winner receiving $50,000. In October, they will host their ninth startup challenge in Paris, France.

"Three years ago, I talked to Craig about this idea for the Women's Startup Challenge," Kapin tells CNBC Make It. "Craig was one of the very first people to support us and say, 'Great, let me know how I can help.'"

We spoke with Newmark and Kapin about how men can help even the playing field in tech. They gave three recommendations: 

Left to right: Women Who Tech director Justyn Hintze, Women Who Tech founder Allyson Kapin, PathSpot founder Christine Schindler and Good Call co-founder Stephanie Yim.
Photo Credit: Women Who Tech

1. Put your money where your mouth is

A self-described "old school, 1950s-style nerd," Newmark says he can "be pretty clueless" when it comes to some topics.

But as a business leader who believes in fairness, he says he feels he has a duty to take action on inequality in the tech industry. "I've been lucky enough to do well in business," says the billionaire entrepreneur, who is also the founder of Craig Newmark Philanthropies. "I should put my money where my mouth is, and that means a number of things, including investing in women in tech."

Kapin says that since venture capital is also male-dominated, it's imperative that more men step up and do the same.

"We've been hearing so much about diversity pledges and about how the data isn't moving in terms of funding women-led startups," she says. "But so few are coming to the table to actually put their money where their mouth is."

2. Introduce women to your VC networks

Right now, less than 10% of decision-makers at VC firms are women, according to TechCrunch. In the U.S., 74% of VC firms have zero female investors.

For many women in tech, breaking into these spaces can be an overwhelming challenge. Kapin and Newmark agree that in order to move the needle, men must get comfortable with introducing women to the power players in their circle.

"It can often feel like you're [fighting] an uphill battle," Kapin says. "One of the best ways to be an ally to women founders is to introduce them to your network of investors, as investors rely on warm leads from their personal networks."

3. Promote the ideas and accomplishments of women

Newmark says that that one key way men can be better allies to women in tech, or in any industry, is to "make sure [they're] lifting up women's voices." For example, he says, "when a woman makes a good point in a meeting, acknowledge it and give her credit."

He says this can help build "a culture of support." 

Additionally, Kapin says men shouldn't be afraid to talk openly about the challenges women face getting ahead, and they need to encourage the men around them to do the same.

"Yes, some of these conversations can be hard and even uncomfortable," she says, "but they need to be had if we are ever going to bring about change."

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