Thursday, March 29, 2018

Blathering About Inequality Yet Again

Yahoo's "news" organization leans pretty hard to one side (hint: it is not on the side of conservatism), and that extends into their business news side as well as the non-financial commenting that they do.

So it was no surprise to see an odd article (here it is if you are desperate) in regard to the issuance of venture capital to nascent firms.  Apparently, only 10% of venture backed companies were founded by a female, and as if we had to inject race into it, only 1% of companies were founded by a black entrepreneur.

This was terrible, according to Jean Case, the CEO of a VC foundation that does a lot of investing into such companies, and was interviewed for the piece.  That foundation has invested some $100 million since its inception, according to the article.

What was a bit weird, however, is that she herself made the statement that was the sub-headline for the piece -- “One thing we know for sure is [that] talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not.”

So there was so much wrong with the article that an actual reporter or writer with at least half a brain would have addressed.  We can start, of course, with the fact that Mrs. Case, who is the CEO of an actual VC foundation, never even once was quoted in the article as to what her own foundation was actually doing in the sense of diversifying its investments!

I would want to know that, wouldn't you?  I'd like to know how much cleaner her house is than all those other bad VC firms out there that apparently refuse to invest in woman-owned businesses.  Not only did she not offer that information, but it apparently was not asked, since it does not appear in the article.

There was no example of a woman-owned VC firm that Mrs. Case had invested in which had succeeded, perhaps as what could have been an example of a good investment in a woman-owned business, right?  That was not asked either, nor was a question about an example of a woman-owned business that any VC firm had invested in that had succeeded.

But I think I would like to try addressing the comment that she made, and that again, the writer failed to challenge.  Talent, Mrs. Case said, is "equally distributed" but "opportunity is not."

Moreover, she said we "know that for sure."  As in "certain."

I don't know that for sure, do you?

What study has ever been done to show that talent is indeed "equally distributed", something she threw out as fact?  What study concludes that woman-owned businesses are turned down for VC funding at a higher rate than male-owned businesses?  I would "venture" to say that the answer is "none", although I was part of such a woman-owned firm that got nowhere in seeking capital, partly because it was during the depressed Obama years, and partly because it was an innovative retail firm, not one with a whiz-bang techno-product.

So is talent equally distributed?  More importantly, is the ability to create an entrepreneurial enterprise equally distributed?  If it is, then Mrs. Case and the writer have done an immense disservice, the former by not actually putting her money where her mouth is, and the latter by falling down on every journalistic tenet ever recorded in the free world.

Of course, it doesn't matter, because I've got $4.66 that says this was intended to be, not a journalistic inquiry, but an opinion piece-cum-political drivel, spreading the notion that women are being held back.  Put enough of this kind of stuff out there, and hoi polloi might actually make the ill-informed conclusion that there is more of this sort of thing out there than there actually is, and that maybe woman-owned firms are approved at a higher rate -- there just aren't that many of them -- and it's not up to the VC firms to correct that.

It's called "narrative journalism", and it is not journalism at all.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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