camelia_nunez

Is Velocity a Male-Dominated Incubator?

In honour and celebration of International Women’s Day, Velocity’s Associate Director, Camelia Nunez, reflects on Velocity’s goals to bridge the gender gap and to change the perception that Velocity is not a women-friendly incubator.

Is Velocity a Male-Dominated Incubator?

Yes, it is. It only takes one walk through the Garage to come to this conclusion. To be precise, women make up ~15% of the current community and 23% of current founders are women.

Now that we’ve got the numbers out of the way, I believe the more important question is “what are we doing about it?” For starters, I thought I would write this blog – a reflection of my first year as a woman in a leadership role at Velocity. I acknowledge the numbers I just shared are also the reality of the larger tech industry, but that will not be the focus of this blog. My intention is to address Velocity’s long standing reputation and start an open conversation on this topic. What better opportunity to do this than on International Women’s Day?  

One of the most important lessons I learned in my first year at Velocity is that high-performance founders often celebrate wins/success very briefly (or often not at all). The reason being is that their attention is consumed by the work ahead vs. the celebration of “one step along the way”. This was important learning because it helped me realize it is also how the Velocity team itself, operates. The team is known to punch well above its weight and get a lot done, despite its small size. The focus is always on the work ahead; wins along the way aren’t often celebrated.

Velocity lets the success of its founders and Alumni companies speak to the quality of the work it does. While this is something I admire most about the Velocity culture, it also became apparent that as it relates to the particular topic of this blog, celebrating the small wins is actually a part of the work that needs to be done. If the goal is to bridge the gender gap and change the perception that Velocity is not a women-friendly incubator, we must openly talk about the efforts and strides we are making along the way.

“If the goal is to bridge the gender gap and change the perception that Velocity is not a women-friendly incubator, we must openly talk about the efforts and strides we are making along the way,” says Camelia Nunez, Associate Director of Velocity.

I too, was aware of this reputation when I was considering joining Velocity. I then spent some time talking with team members and learned things like: in Velocity’s earlier stage program that cultivates deep tech companies (Velocity Science) 11 out of the 21 current teams have at least one female co-founder. That is 52% of these teams are led by a woman! I also learned that Velocity makes a conscious effort to include women as keynote speakers and judges for its events because they believe women bring valuable perspectives to the conversation and most importantly, they stand as examples to other women. In my past year at Velocity, we have had a total of 51 judges a part of the Velocity Fund, 22 of which were women. Velocity is also involved in a number of broader initiatives to help strengthen the pipeline of future women in tech. Knowing all this helped me appreciate that while Velocity is (still) a male-dominated incubator, real efforts are being made to fight the battle of gender disparity in tech and become a more inclusive incubator.

“Velocity makes a conscious effort to include women as keynote speakers and judges for its events because they believe women bring valuable perspectives to the conversation and most importantly, they stand as examples to other women.”

With all this said, I want to be clear that regardless of its reputation, I wholeheartedly believe that if you are a founder of an early stage startup, male or female, you should be taking advantage of the resources Velocity has to offer. You cannot afford to overlook things like the strong founder network, access to space and state-of-the-art product development labs, full time business advisors, investor office hours, YC prep sessions, and so much more value. If you are an early stage startup, Velocity is without a doubt, where you should be if you are just starting a company.

Yes, it is true that the vast majority of the current founders are male and this can be intimidating. The bro culture that sometimes forms as a result, can be strong. I personally have been dismissed, talked over and had my authority questioned. It is not easy, but it is my hope that women do not let these kinds of behaviours hold them back. It is equally important to point out that while bro culture has indeed been a part of my reality, I also work with male colleagues who openly condemn these kinds of attitudes. I am aware of male-only founding teams at Velocity who are thinking hard and deliberately taking steps to not be a part of the bro culture and want to make sure women join their teams and move into leadership positions.

In this past year at Velocity, I have come to appreciate the deliberate efforts and progress that has been made so far, but also recognize that much work lies ahead. So who is going to do that work? In my opinion, it must be all of us, men and women.

“I am aware of male-only founding teams at Velocity who are thinking hard and deliberately taking steps to not be a part of the bro culture and want to make sure women join their teams and move into leadership positions.”

Our male colleagues, who do not stand for brohood culture and openly denounce attitudes that undermine women in their organization, must continue to do so. The good news is that there are plenty of these men in the Velocity community. These are our colleagues who respect our opinion and stand with us in calling BS on anything else but equal treatment and mutual respect.  They are the men that we must do this work with. It is a huge culture shift that must take place and if we are to be truly successful, we need our male colleagues by our side.

So what can we as women do? First of all, let’s not shy away from joining a male-dominated tech environment. Let’s not allow a broculture reputation to stand in the way of us getting the best resources for our tech company. It may be scary, but we must be courageous and we must take on the challenge because a real shift in mindset can only come from within. There are those of us already fighting this battle. Join us! Our joint efforts will lead to a more inclusive work environment down the road, for future generations of women, for our daughters. So next time a male teammate cuts you or a female colleague off in a meeting or dismisses what you or she has to say, next time a man speaks over you or bluntly questions your authority, call it out! Don’t be a bystander! Speak up against it! Make your voice heard!

On this day of celebrating women across the globe, I hope women in the Velocity and border tech community alike, take some time to recognize the difference they are making, the progress that they have contributed to and the work that still needs to be done. As for Velocity being a male-dominated incubator, I can’t say that this will change in the next year or two, but I do hope that by starting this conversation and openly sharing our stand on this font, we will encourage more women to join our community and be a part of the mindshift.  

Happy International Women’s Day!

     – Camelia Nunez