Entrepreneur Turned Angel Investor

with Josh Felser

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How to attract talented women to your team

Josh Felser

Co-Founder of Spinner, Grouper & Freestyle Capital

Lessons Learned

If you really want to hire women at your firm, get other women to help you.

The language you use in a job description is important for attracting talented female employees.


Lesson:Entrepreneur Turned Angel Investor with Josh Felser

Step #8 Diversity: How to attract talented women to your team

Freestyle decided to add an investment professional. So, we wanted to find someone great that wasn't a white man because Dave and I kind of have that covered. So, we posted this job description on our site. We had people kind of get the word out. We got, I think, about 350 or so applications, of which 10 were from women. So, that's not a great ratio.

So, we kind of sat back and tried to figure out what we had done wrong. So, as part of that process, I gathered about 12 or 13 women that I respected who worked in venture. I basically bought them lunch and I said, "What did we do wrong? How can we do a better job?"

They gave me lots of good advice. Some was hard to hear, like the language. Even though it was written by a woman, the job description was written by a woman, we used things like, "Crush it," "Crushing it," right? That turned a lot, half the group said that would turn women off right away. That sounds like a frat boy, even though a woman wrote it, like a frat boy wrote it.

The way we described the job, we didn't describe it with enough structure. It was too loose and it wasn't clear how senior the person was going to be. So, there was a fear that maybe this was going to be a position that was kind of a lesser responsibility, lower title, so it was hard to get a picture on how respected that position was going to be within Freestyle. We hadn't thought of that either.

And then what really helped, all the women in the room were like, "We're all going to tweet the job to our world and get everybody else to retweet it." So, when they did it, when a woman who happened to be a venture capitalist is saying, "Hey, you should look at this job at Freestyle," that made a massive difference.

That was the greatest thing. We changed the job description a little bit. But that really is what made the difference, having women that are already in venture encouraging other women to apply for this job in venture. There were some later stage women who were part of it. I asked other women to find women who were in venture. So, we just had this great group.

When they sent it around, we got 80 resumes within a week. We had a great male candidate. Our rule was we're going to hire the best candidate, but if it's a tie, it's going to go to diversity. We wanted the person we hired to know that they were the best person for the job. We didn't want to bring on someone just because.

So, we had great candidates on both sides. It wasn't a tie. We actually had a strong candidate who had worked in journalism. And then we had some great candidates that applied.

At some point during the process of meeting all these women, I realized that I had already met the person I wanted to hire. I met her when she was an entrepreneur trying to raise capital from us. We said no when she was raising it, but I kind of never forgot her.

I reached out to her and I said, "Hey, let's have lunch." And she agreed not knowing why. We really got along when she was raising money. We had this lunch. We're talking kind of small talk and I said, "How would you like to become a VC?" She was like, "What?" She never had really thought about it.

She really had to think about it. Joyce really thinks things through. She does stoic meditation, which is really the opposite of mindful, where you actually focus on a question and try and answer it in all these different ways. So, she does that just walking through her life.

So, she went away, went surfing in Indonesia. While she was away, she sent us a superhero high-five animated thing saying she was in. It was great. So, it's been great to have her. I couldn't be happier with it.

Having all these women in venture, like, bond together to help us find a woman to hire, made the difference. There's only so much that I can do. But having them on my side and aligned with me to try and make this happen made all the difference in the world.

So, I think what guys can do, what men can do in venture is be open about getting help. If you really want to hire a woman at your firm then get other women to help you. It's not like men in venture have this great reputation that women are just going to believe whatever you've written in your job description. So, have other women in venture help you. I think that's the main advice I would give.

We had great candidates. I felt there were probably three or four women we could have hired that all would have been great. It really came through there, the involvement of their peers.

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