May 19, 2021

Europe now has nearly 200 female VC partners. How did they get their jobs?

A third of Europe’s female VC partners have MBAs. Far fewer have actually worked at startups.

Thea Messel, founder of investment firm Unconventional Ventures.

Europe now has nearly 200 female VC investment partners, a milestone for an industry that has traditionally struggled to promote and hire women to leadership positions. Investors also say that continuing to grow this cohort will also be key to making progress in shrinking the massive gender funding gap

The data is based on a Sifted-compiled list of female investment partners at European VC funds. The total number of funds with at least one woman partner was 151. The list does not include venture, operational or investor relations partners, or corporate venture organisations. 

So what is the typical background of a woman who makes it to partner? 

As with the US, many of Europe’s female partners have graduated from elite educational institutions and hold multiple degrees. 28% of the cohort have an MBA, similar to the US where MBAs are also widely held by VC investment partners. The most common MBA programme was Harvard Business School, with 11 alumnae on the list, followed by INSEAD with six. 


Many VC funds tout the team’s operational or entrepreneurial experience as a mark of how well they can understand and support founders, but in reality, very few women VCs have experience as operators or founders, the data shows. This supports research from Diversity VC on UK VCs that showed only 8% of UK VCs know what it’s like to work at a startup. It's also at odds with the career path for many VCs in the US, where 60% of investors have worked at a startup

A more common career path into elite VC jobs in Europe is through finance or consulting at firms like Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and Bain & Company.

It’s also interesting to note that just under half of the female partners had also founded the firm where they invested. This could suggest that women who find it difficult to make the top position at an established firm decide to start their own.

On top of that, several female-founded VC firms have also chosen to invest specifically in female founders, like Maren Bannon's January VC and Anya Navidski's Voulez Capital, or in underrepresented founders more broadly, like Thea Messel's Unconventional VC and Janneke Niessen and Eva de Mol's CapitalT. 

By country, it makes sense that the UK has the most women VC partners. There are currently 60, which is more than double the number in the country with the second most women VC partners, France. It’s also interesting to note that while Germany is the second biggest market for startup investment in Europe, it punches well below its weight in the number of women partners. There are only 13 in total. 

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