In 2021, European VCs were on a high. Startups on the continent raised €100bn, while investors themselves raised nearly €20bn for new funds.
But, amid all the excitement, one thing didn’t change: the percentage of funding heading towards women founders. Last year, all-women founded startups raised just 1.1% of investment in Europe, while 8.8% of investment went to mixed-gender founding teams, according to Atomico’s State of European Tech report.
Today, a new report released by European Women in VC explores why that might be, sharing new data on the gender balance at Europe’s VC firms.
The picture isn’t pretty; just 15% of general partners (GPs) at European VCs — those who typically manage the firms — are women. They also have less carry than their male peers and fewer seats on investment committees.
The findings are based on desk research of 303 European venture funds and a survey of 122 VCs at funds with over €25m in assets under management.
Gender balance at VC firms is poor
Across Europe as a whole, 85% of VC GPs are men.
In worse than the average in the UK, where 87% of GPs are men. The worst of all is the CEE region: 90% of GPs there are men.
Women have access to less assets under management
The amount of capital women GPs have access to is also less than that of their male peers. Women GPs have access to just 9% of total assets under management (AUM) in Europe, despite accounting for 15% of GPs.
In the Nordics, women GPs have access to just 6% of AUM. In the UK, women GPs have access to only 5% of firepower.
Dive into VC and meet the people holding the purse strings.
Women get short changed on carry
Women GPs are also getting a smaller share of the spoils of investing.
The survey of 122 VC firms reveals that across Europe 91% of male GPs have access to carried interest — the percentage of a VC fund’s profits that go to the fund managers — compared with 70% of female GPs.
Zooming in more closely across the continent, the picture shifts. In the Baltics and the UK, female GPs had as much access to carried interest as male GPs. In southern Europe, however, just 44% of woman GPs had access to carried interest, compared to 79% of male GPs.
Progression to partner is slow
While many VC firms have been on a recruitment drive to find more women investors, these efforts are not yet having much of an impact at the partner level.
VC teams are fairly equally split between men and women in junior roles, with 46% of junior positions held by women. However, women hold just 32% of senior positions.
👉 Read more: 280+ female VC partners in Europe: the complete and updated list
Investment committee members mostly men
VCs generally decide which startups to invest in at a weekly investment committee meeting.
And the attendees of those meetings are predominantly men: four out of five investment committee members at the firms surveyed are male.
LPs are even worse
Moving up a level to the limited partners (LPs) — the people and firms which invest in VC funds — the gender split is even worse. Just 10% of women at LPs have influence and investment decision-making power, according to the survey.
Women-led firms are increasing
The majority of the largest VC funds in Europe are managed by primarily male partnerships.
However Europe does have some sizeable funds run by women. Last year, Paris-based Revaia raised the continent’s biggest fund led by female GPs, at €250m.
Crowberry, led by three female partners and based in Iceland, also raised a $90m fund — Iceland’s largest ever.
Some, but not all, of these funds are focusing solely on backing female founders. In the UK, there’s Pink Salt Ventures, which launched in December and invests in pre-seed and seed-stage women-led companies. In Germany, there’s Auxxo, a $15m fund dedicated to female founders.
What’s more, Auxxo has more women than men investors in its fund. “It was important for us to attract many women as investors. Only once there are more female investors in the VC business will female founders also get enough capital,” cofounder Gesa Miczaika told Sifted at the time.