July 11, 2018

The CVCA Diversity & Inclusion Program – a conversation with Whitney Rockley

The Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) is the voice of Canada’s venture capital and private equity industry. With a membership comprised of the firms managing the vast majority of venture capital and private equity in Canada, the CVCA works alongside its members to both improve the industry and drive innovation and growth.

Whitney Rockley, who from 2017 – 2018 was the first woman to chair the CVCA, is currently co-chairing a program the CVCA has launched to both celebrate the current contribution of women in Canadian private capital and to create a more diverse ecosystem.

The CVCA Diversity and Inclusion Program began as a conversation between Mike Woollatt and Whitney Rockley, Founder & Managing Partner at McRock Capital and then vice-Chair of CVCA. Rockley recalls that both she and Woollatt felt that the industry was struggling with diversity & inclusion across the board – but that it was hard to know where to start. It was frustrating that “from a basic research standpoint, we didn’t even have baseline data.”

Rockley and Woollatt floated an idea: could the CVCA collect a library of existing resources, data, and tools that member firms could use? Six CVCA members volunteered to help drive a committee forward. The committee has since grown into a full-fledged program of the CVCA powered by over 20 members and staff.

The program aims to ensure that that member firms “don’t have to start from zero” when building policies or practices to ensure more inclusive workplaces. By making use of the tools created to increase their own awareness and education, leveraging the studies and training opportunities, and participating in mentorship and sponsorship programs, firms can learn from industry best practices and adopt the tools that are working for other organizations.

“The data is not surprising,”

says Rockley, after reviewing the Women in Venture report. “Venture Capital is an apprenticeship business,” with a career trajectory that involves 5 key steps: analyst, associate, principal, partner, and then managing partner. “We need to figure out how to build inclusive practices, so female analysts continue to advance to the partner ranks.”

With each step up the “staircase” of seniority, representation of women is cut in half. At Canadian VC firms, women hold: 58% of analyst roles, 27% of associate & principal roles, 14% of partner roles

But it’s not just about nurturing the junior talent already in the industry. Rockley also believes the data reveals an opportunity to make change at the senior leadership level, today: “There are no venture partners that are women – that is such an ‘Aha!””

There are few, if any, female venture partners – yet the number of women that are accredited investors is growing quickly. Rockley sees a large opportunity to entice these women to pursue venture partner roles in Canadian VC firms.

“I believe our industry will demonstrate stronger performance through diversity of thought,”

says Rockley. “Diverse teams bring valuable perspectives and approaches to the ideation process resulting in more innovative solutions to complex problems, which is what our industry does and needs to continue to do.”

That means building workplaces and an industry that intentionally makes space at the table: “The key is building an industry where our talent – regardless of ethnicity, disability, orientation and gender – can thrive in a career in private capital.”

Read the full Women in Venture Report here