Two RCs are trying to bridge the gender gap in venture capital, one episode at a time.
Rashveena Rajaram and Anvita Dekhane (MBAs ’22) are the co-hosts of the podcast Women in Venture Capital and new venture fellows for Pear VC. They first met during the Venture Deals Summer 2020 course by Kauffman Fellows and Techstars and immediately connected. Rajaram and Dekhane echoed a need to create a repository of conversations, which moved them to create the Women in Venture Capital podcast this summer. Almost 20 episodes later and having helped thousands of women to date, they share with us their story, what brought them to this point and the impact they are having in the HBS community and beyond.
Rajaram was born and raised in Mauritius. She moved to the United States in 2012 for her undergraduate studies at Hamilton College in upstate New York where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. She has years of experience working on IPOs and other equity transactions in the Equity Capital Markets team at Citigroup in New York and London. More recently, she worked at an early-stage venture capital firm called Compass Venture Capital, based in Mauritius, and focused on investments in Mauritius, the Indian Ocean, and the African continent. Rajaram is passionate about technology investments in her home continent, Africa, especially in agriculture, education and healthcare and hopes to contribute to that ecosystem in the long term. She enjoys road trips with her friends and family and reading novels by Agatha Christie.
Dekhane is an engineer from IIT Bombay and started her career as a management consultant with BCG. She then moved to venture investing with Sequoia Capital, where she led some key sector theses along with deal evaluations and portfolio support. Keen to get operational experience, Dekhane joined an early-stage venture (BabyChakra, a digital companion to young families in India) as a founding team member. In the almost three years it took to build BabyChakra, the platform grew to serve over two million families each month and launched its own range of personal care products. Dekhane is passionate to back entrepreneurs driving scalable impact, especially in healthcare and education. In her free time, she listens to podcasts on Spotify and enjoys playing badminton, traveling and sketching.
“Born in a small town of India, I had two female role models in my life—my mum and my elder sister—for a ‘nothing is impossible’ attitude. Growing up watching them conquer the world, in their own capacities, with indefinite confidence, set the tone for me. Gender disparity was not evident to me in this privileged bubble—not until I joined IIT Bombay, one of the most reputed engineering colleges in India, which had a 1:10 female to male ratio. Since then, I became accustomed to being the only female or one of the handful of females in most meetings and events. It is that prick that stops hurting after a while,” shares Dekhane.
Their Podcast and Its Impact
Being one of the few, if not the only, women in the room has shaped the personalities of Rajaram and Dekhane and instilled in them a drive to challenge the status quo by bridging the gender gap. Their podcast aims to bridge information and access gap for aspiring women investors. They have a strong belief that having more women decision makers to invest will also boost aspiring women entrepreneurs to take the plunge and have role models to look up to, on both sides of the table.
When they first met at the course “Venture Deals Summer 2020” by Kauffman Fellows and Techstars, Rajaram and Dekhane instantly connected on the startling statistic of under-10% representation of women at decision-making positions. In the words of Rajaram, “I only started digging into the numbers around gender representation in the industry last summer but it soon became clear to me that, while there has been an overall acknowledgement of gender disparity especially among decision-makers, progress has been very slow. I decided to raise this with women in my class at HBS by first starting a Slack channel and eventually joined hands with Anvita, who was as determined to address the issue, to start the podcast.”
They started the podcast with a clear goal in mind: building a database of candid conversations, with women in the industry (interns to partners) and male counterparts, that students and professionals aspiring to break into the industry can access. “The reception by students, alumni and professionals in and outside venture capital globally has been really heart-warming. We have recorded around 20 episodes already and keep building the pipeline every week. HBS has shown tremendous support and has been key in spreading the message and promoting the platform,” says Rajaram.
Their podcast Women in Venture Capital can be found on your favorite podcast platform, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Buzzsprout. Rajaram and Dekhane have recorded almost 20 episodes with students, fellows, partners and professors. One episode at a time, they are bridging the gender gap in Venture Capital by starting a dialogue that promotes networking, sharing, and learning.
Here are the key takeaways from the podcast:
- On career progression for women investors, HBS Professor Jeff Bussgang gave the following advice: “know if you will be taken seriously as you choose to join, find culture fit and find a mentor who is willing to invest in your progress.”
- On the impact of diversity, Anoushka Vaswani (partner at LSP) emphasized that strong appreciation for diversity enables better decision making and outcomes.
- On bridging the gender gap, Bukie Adebo (HBS ’21) mentioned how it is easy to gravitate towards people who look like you, and that conscious efforts are needed—across the board—to bring the much-needed parity. Adebo also shared three steps to have a better representation of mixed gender teams: step one is to think about it, step two is to broaden horizons of people sourced and step three is to make conscious calls to include diversity.
Anvita Dekhane (MBA ’22) is passionate about backing entrepreneurs who are driving scalable impact, especially in healthcare and education. In her free time, she listens to podcasts on Spotify, enjoys playing badminton, traveling, and sketching.
Noelia Lombardo (MBA ’22) was born in Argentina but identifies herself as a global citizen. She is a biomedical engineer and a management consultant. She is a storyteller and a lifelong migrant. She loves the outdoors, yoga, reading, and good debates.
Rashveena Rajaram (MBA ’22) is passionate about technology investments in her home continent, Africa, especially in agriculture, education and healthcare and hopes to contribute to that ecosystem in the long term. She enjoys road trips with her friends and family and reading novels by Agatha Christie.