PODCAST: Tech is “flunking” the diversity test, says activist and venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein

Freada Kapor

In recent years, several venture capital firms in Silicon Valley have made public strides to become more diverse after decades of being predominantly led by white men. But Freada Kapor Klein, a venture capitalist who has advocated for diversity in tech since the 1980s, isn’t impressed by their progress.

“Writ large, flunk,” she said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. “Failing grade.”

Kapor Klein spoke with Recode’s Teddy Schleifer about why well-intentioned initiatives such as All Raise have not yet had an impact. If the tech industry is going to reflect the diversity of the whole country, she explained, hiring more white women isn’t good enough.

“If what we do is count the number of women partners, and if those women partners are white and Asian and went to the same schools and grew up in the same zip codes and now live in the same zip codes as their male partners, that doesn’t get me very far on diversity,” Kapor Klein said. “Every single day I am awestruck, I am inspired by the entrepreneurs that come to pitch us. And they are from every walk of life, from every background possible, every combination of family circumstances, of race, of religion, of age, of gender, of LGBTQ status, disability.”

Along with her husband, Mitch Kapor, Kapor Klein is the co-chair of the Oakland-based Kapor Center, which seeks to diversify tech through a combination of education, community organizing, and impact investing — in other words, only backing startups that “clos[e] gaps of access, of opportunity or outcome for low-income communities and/or communities of color.” Another prominent impact investor, Bill McGlashan, has been implicated in the college admissions scandal, which Kapor Klein cast as “outrageous and not at all surprising.”

“We have to once and for all take a deep hard look at the BS notion of meritocracy,” she said. “This society has moved farther and farther and farther away from being meritocratic for many decades. As one venture capitalist put it recently, that in the last 50 years, there’s been a bull market in inequality. I think we have to look at all of the forces including the ways in which tech has made things worse.” (read more)

You can listen to Recode Decode wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsPocket Casts, and Overcast.

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