Spain outperforms the rest of Europe in terms of gender diversity in tech startups. Around 16% of its founders are women, which, while still not great, is higher than countries like France and the UK which have 10% and 13%, respectively.

This relative success is, at least in part, due to the country having some top female investors who value diversity and don’t believe that it comes at the expense of performance.

Sifted has asked some of Spain’s top women investors about how this can improve and their track-records on backing female founders. Clearly these are not the only brilliant female investors in Spain, but it is a list of some of the most influential.

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Beatriz González

Beatriz Gonzalez

Beatriz González is the founding partner of Seaya, one of Spain’s top VC firms. She is chairman of the Venture Capital Committee of ASCRI and member of the board of Endeavor Spain.

Recent investments

12 investments in the last five years.

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

One.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

We need to sell it better, talk about its merits, share good experiences and success stories so that it is more appealing. When we open up positions in Seaya, out of 100 candidates we get two, maybe three women applying, so the problem is in the funnel and their perception of this sector.

Julia Salaverría

Julia Salaverría was principal economist at the Bank of Spain before moving into venture capital. She is general manager and cofounder of Ysios Capital, one of Spain’s biggest VC firms with a focus on biotech. Salaverría has sat on the board of 15 companies and has 20 years experience of investing in biotech.

Recent investments

14 investments in the last five years.

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

One, although across these companies, the management teams are 29% female.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

We need corporate policies offering women similar opportunities as men, facts showing the positive impact on companies of a gender-balanced policy and success stories of female-founded and female-led companies.

Paloma Cabello

Paloma Cabello started her entrepreneurial career in Venezuela, before moving back to Spain to become managing director of Marco Polo Investments in 2000. She was the first European to sit on the Global Board of Directors of the MIT Business Forum and is now an angel investor, focusing on artificial intelligence, proptech and material sciences.

Recent investments

Three in the last year as an angel investor.

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

Two.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

Number one: we need to reflect more on the reasons why the investment industry has such a strong culture of very long working hours and zero culture of making use of family-friendly policies that may be in place in investment firms. 

Just by changing these things, I believe that a great supply of amazing feminine talent will feel keen to join the investment ranks; that is a creative, interesting and rewarding activity. Women like all that — I hate when I listen to men saying “women don’t like this industry”. It is simply not true. What they don’t like is a job that makes it very difficult to live what a woman understands as a healthy life: being a mother, being a daughter, being a life-partner.

Number two: supporting and encouraging women networks, to give space for as many role-modelling situations as possible.

Sonia Fernández

Sonia Fernández began her career in tech in 1999 as part of the founding team of online marketplace MercadoLibre. She later went on to shape the digital strategy of one of Spain’s biggest daily newspapers, El Pais, and launched Match.com in Spain in 2003. Fernández is now a partner at Kibo Ventures and sits on the board of Level20, an organisation of women investors across Europe.

Recent investments

22 investments since 2016.

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

Five.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

I  believe there are two distinct factors to bring the level of women participation up in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain. One: more role models. Seeing that other women can be successful and having those women inspire others is paramount in getting more women entrepreneurs. 

Two: more women sitting at the investment table. There is still a tendency to follow what we know, back people we feel more connected to both socially, demographically and even racially. Gender does play a role here too. If a woman entrepreneur is pitching to a team of senior partners where there are no women sitting at the table, the odds even if not consciously biased, are relatively more against her.

Lina Chong

Lina Chong is investment director at Target Global, focusing on investments in Spain from the firm’s new Barcelona office. Before joining Target in 2018, she worked at ResearchGate and Plattner Ventures. 

Recent investments

At Target Global, I was involved with LexFox, Badi, Mediquo, Travelperk, Omni:us and Fresha among others.

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

One. But, before my time, we invested in Anna from Doctorly and Doreen from Lemoncat. More and more women are becoming entrepreneurs and are starting up their own business — but there still needs to be more.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

We know about the pipeline issue, that there aren’t enough women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). We need to have more support and acceptance of working women — and working mothers. It is a taboo to speak openly about wanting family, like it’s diametrically opposed to ambition.

The other issue is about a thriving community and a network of supporters that’s an integral part of every entrepreneurs’ journey. 

Lourdes Álvarez de Toledo

Starting her career as a lawyer, Lourdes Álvarez de Toledo moved into the entrepreneurial world in 2013. She’s now principal at JME Venture Capital and has sat on the board of some of Spain’s top startups.

Recent investments

JME has made 37 investments in the last eight years.

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

Five.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

During the education phase (schools and universities), women should be encouraged to start their own business. Given that many startups are created after a business school program, these programs should award women with more scholarships.

Corporates should also promote intrapreneurship initiatives, encouraging women to lead them. 

From the government point of view, a good initiative would be to allow women to take a work leave to promote their own business. 

María Juesas Portolés

María Juesas Portolés has worked at investment firms in New York and London with experience of asset management and hedge funds. Since 2018, she’s been a senior associate at InnoCells, the corporate venture arm of Banco Sabadell where she invests in fintech and insurtech.

Recent investments

 At InnoCells we have invested in 11 companies since we launched.

 How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

Unfortunately, none of them have women founders. Nonetheless, we expect to change that in the future. 

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

I think there should be more education and visibility to the young generations. Give women from their early age (high school and university) the visibility of how the entrepreneurial world is and give them a bit of guidance on how other entrepreneurs have done it in the past. And show them how they can change theirs and other people’s lives by following this path.

Corinne Jimenez

Corinne Jimenez has been in venture capital for the last five years and is currently VC lead at Mutua Madrileña, one of Spain’s top insurers. She’s a specialist in insurtech, and is currently investing in startups, VC funds and funds of funds.

Recent investments

Since 2015, I have been involved in 26 investment deals, of which I have led eight. 

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

I’m afraid that, to date, only one of the invested companies was cofounded by a woman. Of all the startups interviewed, only 10% or less were founded by women, which makes it mathematically difficult for them to make it through the whole investment funnel. 

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

For me, it would be key to go to the root, to the schools, where future entrepreneurs are formed. Any initiative of mentoring and talks of successful women entrepreneurs to young women will surely have some impact in the future. 

Helena Torras

With early experience in the audit and management consultancy world, Helena Torras now has over a decade of experience in the entrepreneurial sector. In 2007, she joined cloud management software startup Abiquo and has been a fixture of the Barcelona startup scene ever since. She’s now managing partner at Paocapital and is focused on bringing together tech companies and traditional businesses.

Recent investments

Four in recent years.

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

Three.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

We need to keep pushing for increasing the visibility of female founders. We also need to use and buy products from women founders.

Carina Szpilka

Carina Szpilka is general partner at the Madrid-based K Fund, an early-stage VC which invests in tickets from €100,000 to €2m. Szpilka began her career in banking before moving to K Fund, and is currently also the president of the Spanish Association of the Digital Economy (Adigital), an association of more than 500 companies.

Recent investments

28 with K Fund, eight as a business angel.

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

Three.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

We need to attract more women to STEM careers. This will automatically raise the awareness on how capable women are to create new business and how well those businesses can perform when they have a woman as a leader.

Susana F. Casla

Susana F. Casla is president and founding partner at Tartessos Ventures, which has a focus on Latin America and southern Europe. Casla has experience in large corporations like PwC, IBM, Santander, Sanitas, Telefónica and BBVA. She’s also a writer, lecturer and business psychologist, and is chief executive of Escoaching, an executive coaching company.

Recent investments

10 in the last five years.

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

Five.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

We have got used to define “entrepreneurship” in a very narrow way (almost exclusively we think of a team of young people launching a startup), instead of being focused on answering what capacity a person or a team (or a country!) have to identify new opportunities, to transfer knowledge/technology to new scenarios, to engage the best talent or to become agile innovators in order to get more customers.

And what is needed to do that? We need flow! Every exchanging initiative to build bridges (with agility) between new women entrepreneurs and consolidated women leaders who are also business angels, suppliers etc. is a must. 

Taryn Andersen

Taryn Andersen is President and co-founder of Impulse4women,  an organisation formed and developed by women from the investment and entrepreneurship industries. She is also investor relations director at Telegraph Hill Venture Capital.

Recent investments

Since 2015 we have invested in 15 startups

How many of those companies have had a woman in the founding team?

Of the 15 startups in five we have women. In three of them, the women are founder and CEO, and in the other two they are co-founder.

What can be done to improve gender representation in the entrepreneurial sector in Spain?

Collaboration between women is very high and that is a very powerful weapon. It would be positive to be able to find more aid from public–private organisations to help promote women.

Sifted wasn’t able to speak to all of the brilliant women in Spanish investment for this piece. Some were too busy to respond (which we totally get!) and we know we will have missed people. For more names, here’s another great resource of women in Spanish investment.