Last Friday, M-A’s Feminist Club hosted Patricia Nakache, a firm partner at local Trinity Ventures. Nakache spoke of her role in the venture industry, and shared personal experiences as a female in a profession dominated by men.
Nakache is a mother in the M-A community; her son, Robbie Gordan, graduated from M-A in 2014, and her daughter, Helen Gordan, is a junior at M-A.
Nakache has been voicing feminist rights ever since high school, when she was part of an underground feminist newspaper. After graduating high school, Nakache attended Harvard University for her undergraduate degree. At Harvard, Nakache studied physics and chemistry, where she was often the only woman working in the lab in or in classes. From there, she joined McKinsey Consulting in New York, before returning to the Bay Area to attend Stanford Business School. Nakache then returned to work for McKinsey.
It was only when working as a freelance business writer, when she was interviewing venture capitalists, that the venture industry presented itself to Nakache. Currently, she is a partner at Trinity Ventures, where she meets with and invests in technology entrepreneurs. Nakache shared that she was able to differentiate herself from the industry by investing in companies that specifically serve women consumers, despite initially resisting being pushed to be “the woman who worked on women’s issues.”
Nakache has been able to raise three children while at Trinity, demonstrating that it is possible to pursue both motherhood and a career. When she and her husband were raising their first two children, Nakache worked part-time, something she admits is unusual in the field.
Nakache pointed to unconscious bias as the “problem that is most prevalent in the venture industry.” She added that many companies say they believe in meritocracy, yet their leaders perpetuate bias nonetheless. “We all, men and women, carry around these unconscious biases with us, and we don’t even realize it.” She recalled Mike Moritz of nearby Sequoia Capital who pronounced that he would be open to hiring more women—if he didn’t have to lower his standards. Realistically, Nakache believes that “women have unconscious biases about women, too. It’s not just a male problem.”
When asked about her role in the venture profession, Nakache shared, “Only 25% of jobs at the top 10 tech companies are held by women, so it’s not just a venture question, it’s a broader tech question. As a woman in venture capital, you’re typically facing male CEOs of these startups…only 3% of companies that have received VC funding have female CEOs. While some executives embrace diversity, some send the signal that’s it’s not for them.”
“I think that you can be underestimated often, because you are a woman.”
While Nakache has not seen a concrete increase in the amount of women in the venture industry, she does see progress in the leadership of venture firms. “There have been a number of women who have gone and started their on venture firms, and they’re very highly-regarded women.” Many have hypothesized that this shift in leadership is how Silicon Valley will be able to achieve gender equality, Nakache shared.
To women aspiring to make a career in the venture industry, Nakache urges, “Just make sure you’re in a culture that is really supportive,” and to “embrace being the woman.”
“I often talk to young women in college and they’ll say, ‘should I even get into the tech industry?’ Yes! You definitely should get into the tech industry. Do not let this stop you…Women need to be able to participate in [the innovation and wealth of Silicon Valley]. We’re an important part of the community, we need to benefit.”