Equity, Diversity + Accountability: a Message from Founder/CEO Linnea Roberts

This week, George Floyd was laid to rest in his hometown of Houston. Protests continue to sweep the country over his unjust death at the hands of police, along with the horrific deaths of Breonna Taylor, of Ahmaud Arbery, and of countless other African Americans. We have been spending this time in solidarity with our friends and colleagues in the Black community, reflecting and listening…listening to their stories and the life experiences that have terrified them, shaken them and meaningfully impacted their lives and opportunities. It is clear that even among the most successful Black professionals, staggering inequities exist.

Linnea joined a panel on the power of capital & diversity at the Declare Summit in New York City last November with (l-r): Jemma Wolfe, Launch with GS; Angela Matheny, Colonial Consulting; & Nnamdi Okike, 645 Ventures.

We are listening, and we are learning. It is painful, uncomfortable and necessary. One of the voices that inspires and teaches me everyday is my GingerBread partner, the brilliant Ita Ekpoudom. I invite you to read her deeply personal and moving essay on Medium.com about her experiences as a Black woman in America.

Here is another voice that throughout my life has inspired me:

“The development of minority and women-owned businesses is the cornerstone in building strong, healthy communities in which each member has the opportunity to live to his or her fullest potential. We will achieve our goal when economic parity is a reality, when every individual, regardless of race or sex, will be judged solely on his or her merit.”  

My mother, Ginger Conrad, publisher of Minority Business Entrepreneur magazine and the namesake of our firm, wrote those words in a 1994 editorial about the struggle for equality and economic parity in America. It’s striking that two-and-a-half decades later, we are still far from achieving that goal.

What will we say next year? A decade from now? In 26 more years? Will we still be saying, as we are today, how “we need to do better”?

The venture capital industry is one that prides itself on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics. And yet, diversity in our industry remains something we are “working on” — with no KPIs or metrics or even hard goals attached. There is a popular expression called “pattern recognition” that is the hallmark of a good investor. Is that very pattern recognition what holds us back?

It is time to move beyond our comfort zones and break our patterns. Our best intentions have failed us. Words have become hollow and meaningless absent real action, KPIs and metrics.

Incredible Health co-founder Iman Abuzeid (pictured with co-founder Rome Portlock) successfully raised a $15 million Series A round last year. Read her step-by-step account on the GingerSnaps blog.

GingerBread Capital was founded to address the distinct lack of economic equity for women founders and the stark imbalances in our experiences as investors, professionals and founders. The word, equity, is both a term for ownership and also for fairness. We must double down on our mission of creating fairness in the context of equity. We remain committed to investing with a gender lens but with a stronger view of intersectionality. It is about having a fair shot, as professionals and as a society.

We are immensely proud of all of our women founders who prevail in spite of the odds. We are especially humbled by our founders of color, who confront and triumph in spite of the hurdles of racism in all its ugly forms, every single day. And we are proud of our firm’s leadership (80% female) and the diversity of our team (40% women of color).

Since accountability begins by first looking within, we would like to share more about the current composition of the GingerBread portfolio.

  * 52% of our invested capital has gone to female founders and GPs of color

  * of that 52%, 8% is invested in Black female founders and GPs, and 2% in Latinx founders/GPs.

We recognize that Black and Latinx founders and GPs are under-represented. We are unsatisfied and impatient that we have not done enough. We will do more. We will:

* increase our allocation of capital to Black female and Latinx founders as a core part of our investment thesis.

* continue to stand together and speak out against racism, whenever and wherever it exists.

* join with our partners in the venture capital community to not just promote equity and diversity, but to practice it.

* commit to transparency.

* hold ourselves accountable.

We are also providing ongoing financial support to organizations committed to addressing and combating racial inequities, including the UNCF, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Equal Justice Initiative and BUILD, Inc., among others. And we will continue to encourage our family, friends and colleagues to do the same.

In the coming days and weeks, we look forward to sharing with you more ways we are building equity for women founders and women of color.  We invite your partnership and input.  We are stronger together.