dot.LA Summit: Julia Boorstin on Why VCs Should Stop Undervaluing Women-Led Startups

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

dot.LA Summit: Julia Boorstin on Why VCs Should Stop Undervaluing Women-Led Startups
Image by Drew Grant

Julia Boorstin had spent over 20 years interviewing founders.

After noticing how few female founders she spoke with, she set out to write “When Women Lead: What They Achieve, Why They Succeed, and How We Can Learn from Them.” CNBC's Senior Media & Tech Correspondent joined dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff at the opening night of the dot.LA Summit to discuss how her experiences interviewing female founders revealed what characteristics help leaders thrive.


“I wanted to move the conversation away from what men have done wrong and focus on what women are doing right,” Boorstin said.

The tech landscape is shaped by whose ideas get heard and what ideas become a reality. She said the statistics she found were striking: only 8.5% of the CEOs on last year’s Fortune 500 were female, and only 2% of VC funding went to female-led companies. When researching her book, she interviewed women in the industry—and backed their experiences up with facts from about 300 academic studies.

“Of course, these women seem exceptional to me,” Boorstin said. “They are literally by definition extraordinary.”

When women thrive in executive positions, Boorstin said businesses perform better. She cited one study that found women-founded businesses outperformed businesses founded by men by 63%. And as the recession comes and funding decreases, she said female founders who have already “trained their muscles to be scrappy” may be better prepared to navigate these challenges.

Rascoff has also found that involving women in the founding process is a business benefit. When he was launching Zillow, he said the male co-founders considered adding homeowner’s names to the real estate platform. It took the insight of co-founder Kristin Acker to point out the potential ways that public information could harm women.

“I think those of us that care about diversity in tech have overly focused on the altruistic reasons about why we should care about this topic and under-focused on the business benefits of diversifying,” Rascoff said.

Boorstin said that companies have to consider the many layers of diversity in order to keep up with the country’s ever-diversifying population and to best serve their customers. People must be open to conversations around how different perspectives—such as a female CEO’s potential to be more empathetic or collaborative—can help a company grow.

“Companies will get better if everyone gets comfortable with being a little uncomfortable at times,” Boorstin said.

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