#BreakTheBias: The Fund XX Celebrates International Women's Day
The Fund XX is a founder community and early stage fund, for women founders by women founders.
International Women’s Day is a day of celebration, recognition and gratitude for all women. It’s also a day for reflection on how we can continue to make progress toward equity and inclusion in our own daily lives.
This year's theme is #BreakTheBias. Bias is a mental shortcut that we use to quickly process new information in an effort to make sense of the world around us. But it also means that we often overlook the diversity of experiences that exist in the world, because we tend to expose ourselves only to those people and things that are familiar.
As we celebrate the achievements of women around the world, we wanted to share our personal experiences as to why we decided to start The Fund XX and our views about breaking the bias.
In 1996, I decided to move from Venezuela to the United States to pursue better opportunities, start a master’s degree, and, ultimately, get a good job in technology. Doing so meant leaving behind my family, friends, culture and pretty much starting a life from scratch in a country where I knew no one. And as a woman in tech, it was a journey full of challenges, sacrifices, and a constant fight against bias.
Entrepreneurship and technology remain male-dominated fields. While women make up 51% of the US workforce, they represent only 26% of the tech industry. Although the share of women as tech CEOs jumped from 4% in 2020 to 10% in 2021, there is still a long way to go.
Fast forward 25 years and that hard work has paid off in more ways than I could have imagined: I received my master’s degree, became an entrepreneur, co-founded two successful legal technology companies, and had the opportunity to start The Fund XX to invest in and mentor female founders.
I'm passionate about helping other women succeed and be part of the change. For me, The Fund XX is a means to put my money where my mouth is and support the next generation of female entrepreneurs in developing thriving businesses.
Female founders receive less than 3% of VC capital today, while women who make investment choices in VC account for less than 12%. By bringing more women into the VC ecosystem and investing in women-led businesses, we are consciously taking action towards closing the gender gap by providing funding and access at the early stages.
I'm thankful for the women that came before me, shattering ceilings and opening doors for things to happen that were at one time impossible, and I hope that The Fund XX can continue on that mission.
Growing up, my mom always told me, “Don’t rely on anyone.” My feminist leanings were later reinforced by attending Wellesley College (an all women’s college) and then taking a hard plunge into investment banking (an incredibly male-dominated environment). Had I understood in advance what an outlier I would be in the investment banking world, I may not have had the courage to do it. But because I was interviewing alongside my Wellesley classmates, and I just wanted to find the most intense job I could find, I didn’t think twice about being any different from my peers in the broader context.
Bias is everywhere, and unfortunately we all face it in different forms. I see gender related bias on a daily basis - from restaurants always giving the bill to my husband to far more career invasive biases, where it may be easiest for the vendor to assume I’m an assistant instead of a decision maker, or depictions of me as “motherly” in a work-setting as a functional leader far before I ever identified as a mom outside of work.
I care deeply about The Fund XX because I believe in communities of women lifting each other to equality. We are innately equal, but the ecosystems around us enable some groups to run faster to their destination than others. Through The Fund XX, we are tackling the full ecosystem by focusing on recruiting women investors and backing women CEOs. By shortcutting the ecosystem to be women-led across the board - we #BreakTheBias now.
A couple of years ago I came across a piece of data that was a eureka moment for me, and which seems obvious in hindsight: women are 2x more likely to invest in other women. In terms of why this is, it could be due to networks or the fact that people tend to gravitate toward those that are like themselves.
After reading this, I became convinced that the only way to truly level the funding playing field is to have more women investors in the ecosystem, across all funding stages. With that said, the early funding stages (pre-seed and seed) are particularly challenging for women founders, as there isn't historical data for investors to look at, so they really can only judge the founder and market. That's where we see some of the biases, even if unconscious, come to play.
The Fund XX for me aligned perfectly with this thesis on multiple fronts. First, it brought 4 new women investment committee members into the ecosystem, but it went far beyond that. Over 90% of our 50 LPs are women, many first time investors. It's likely that they will one day start writing their own angel checks if they aren't doing so already.
Second, The Fund XX invests "first checks” into women-led businesses, which means that we invest at the earliest stages -- often before a product is fully baked and when it's most challenging for women to raise capital. Through this investment vehicle, we aim to chip away at the biases that exist in the funding ecosystem, one check at a time.
My parents immigrated to the United States in the early 60’s for the promise of great independence and opportunity for their children that they didn’t have for themselves. It wasn’t an easy journey for generations of my family in India, enduring hardships, sickness, poverty and lack of education, health and financial resources. Nor was it welcoming here for my parents facing prejudice and discrimination as they strived to be pioneers by making innumerable sacrifices for my sister and me.
I am sincerely proud to be a first generation Indian (‘Desi’) American. That said, what my parents could not predict nor prepare me for is how much I still struggle even today to gain access and resources to thrive as a woman executive climbing my way up the ladder in tech in the United States. While there are not enough words for me to express my gratitude for the allies and mentors in my corner advocating my every move, quite frankly… it’s lonely. Being a woman of color adds another dimension to my experience.
As much as we hear about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the fact remains that the tech community continues to struggle to figure out how to significantly move the needle in hiring and retaining a truly diverse workforce and make DEI a core business priority weaving it into the core fabric of company culture. As a People operator, I unfortunately really see ‘how the sausage is made’ and consistently battle to stand up to do what’s right, often going against popular opinion. Inequity for women in tech permeates throughout as there is lack of representation of women amongst investors, in VC firms, on Boards, at the C-Suite and executive table, across management roles and throughout the general employee population. This problem persists because we are not holistically solving for the entire ecosystem.
When Sylvia reached out to me to join the investment committee (and beautiful sisterhood) of The Fund XX, what resonated for me most was our mission to fix this inequity at the ecosystem’s roots -- improving the abysmal female representation of investors and VCs that fund tech startups across the United States. We #BreakTheBias by investing in women up front. This downstream effect will naturally reduce unconscious bias and increase women's representation, making a meaningful impact on DEI across tech.
While we still have a long way to go, it’s amazing to think about how far the women’s rights movement has come since the first International Women’s Day in 1911. Gender equality is not just a goal in itself but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. By celebrating the international movement toward equality on International Women’s Day, we are honoring the progress we have made while also combating complacency and bias.
The Fund XX has made four investments so far across sectors (AgeTech, FinTech, LegalTech and Crypto), and we thank our investors and The Fund community for supporting our efforts and getting involved.