Tagged: demand diversity

Pipeline Fellowship: Changing the Face of Angel Investing

Peruse the staff profiles of a typical venture capital firm and you’ll likely find a sea of white men stretching for miles in every direction. According to a 2014 report from the Center for Venture Research, 26% of U.S. angel investors are women and 8% are people of color. These numbers left Natalia Oberti Noguera, a Yale grad with degrees in Comparative Literature and Economics, grossly unsatisfied. In this real-life episode of Shark Tank, where were the women sharks?

Pipeline

Image courtesy of Pipeline Fellowship

In 2011, Oberti Noguera set out to change those numbers. Through the Pipeline Fellowship, she and her team aim to “increase the diversity in the U.S. angel investing community and create capital for women social entrepreneurs.”  The organization currently operates out of 24 major cities across the country.

From now until June 15th, the Fellowship is accepting applications for their Fall 2015 cohort. There are three criteria for consideration. Applicants must:

  • meet the U.S. government’s definition of accredited investor, i.e., earning US$200K in income or US$300K joint income with spouse for the past two years, or US$1M net worth
  • possess an interest in the group learning model and
  • have a passion for social entrepreneurship

The program meets twice a week for six months and combines education speakers, professional mentoring, and practical experience with the pitch process. Since the Fellowship’s launch in 2011, 100 women have graduated the program and 15 women-led for-profit social ventures have secured funding.

banner-fellowship-program

Image courtesy of Pipeline Fellowship

 

Got an idea that you believe deserves funding? If you fit the criteria, take the plunge and sign up to pitch at an upcoming summit. Want to dip a toe instead? Keep an eye on Pipeline Fellowship’s calendar and attend an event near you. Finally, make sure to follow Natalia on Twitter; she regularly shares outstanding insights that stretch well beyond the realm of finance.

Sit Down/Stand Up

In the wake of the post-Oscars wave, there’s been a lot of talk about Patricia Arquette and her rousing acceptance speech. After receiving the award for Best Supporting Actress, Arquette thanked her family and friends and then went in on equal pay for women.

Patricia Arquette. Photo courtesy of ABC News

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.

Her words received a thunderous applause and animated shout-outs from Queen Meryl herself.

Backstage, Arquette had more to say to reporters.

It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women.

And then she kept going:

It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.

Many women of color and members of the queer community expressed their frustrations at the limiting nature of that final sentence. Can you be a person of color and a woman? Can you be a lesbian and a woman? Do trans women factor in at all? If you strip out the gay community and women of color, who’s left besides straight, white women? Arquette’s words prompted criticism on Twitter from the likes of Morgan Jenkins and Roxane Gay.

Capture1

Capture2

Judging from her post-Oscars remarks, it appears that Arquette did not intend to marginalize queer or feminists of color. But when called on the carpet about her comments, Arquette Tweeted back:

Capture4

Capture3

Yet, in this case, privilege is exactly the point. Francesca Ramsey curates a fantastic set of YouTube videos about privilege, racism and intersectional feminism. In the video posted below, Ramsey breaks down the fallacies and realities surrounding this touchy word:

“Privilege does not mean that you are rich, that you’ve had an easy life, that everything’s been handed to you and you’ve never had to struggle or work hard. All it means is that there are some things in life that you will not experience or ever have to think about just because of who you are.”

Yet Gay and Jenkins voiced their opinions in a way that could really benefit Arquette in the future. They’re not arguing against equal pay like Stacy Dash, who told rudely Arquette to bone up on her history and bogusly mentioned President Kennedy signing the Equal Pay Act in 1963. (With no mention of Kennedy’s further speech upon signing or modern day realities of the very real pay gap, I don’t have the time to unpack how off-base this statement is.) Instead, they told Arquette that her comments made them feel marginalized, like they didn’t fit into her definition of womanhood.

While many supporters quickly came to Arquette’s defense, it’s important to view the criticism in a broader context. If we look back through history, white feminism tends to ignore other identities under the banner of “all women.” This legacy exists today and dismantling language that excludes racial identity and sexual orientation isn’t just about surface level politically correctness; it’s about recognizing that you can be both a victim of societal oppression and benefit from privilege simultaneously. “All women” is a lovely, idealistic goal, but it’s not the reality; Arquette may have intended her speech for all women, but her post-Oscars aside did not support her previous statement. As Ramsey explains, “It’s not about your intent; it’s about your impact. So when you get called out, make sure you listen, apologize, commit to changing your behavior and move forward.”

There’s a time to speak up and a time to listen; I hope in this case Arquette takes Ramsey’s advice and does both.

Still Waiting: Oscars 2015

When the Academy announced this year’s Oscar nominations, I felt the way I did about 2015’s Grammy nominations: unsurprised yet somewhat disappointed. But with friends in the film, theater and fashion industries, I felt compelled to watch the events unfold. Our group text fired back and forth commentary on outfits, interview questions and winner predictions.

 

Ava Duverny

Ava Duvernay. Photo courtesy of Relevant Magazine

Perhaps my disappointment stems from wanting to hear more stories. After all, the collection of nominees represents the whitest Oscar group since 1998 and the fewest number of women directors, with women directed only 4.6% of major studio released films last year. Much like cracking into any cutthroat industry, a major barrier to women directors is studios’ attention to past experience. When hiring for a big budget film, a director’s box office record and past experience with major films figures prominently. Instead of taking a chance on new talent, studios frequently return to old favorites, maintaining the status quo and creating a catch-22 for women who want to move up. The notion that there are absolutely no women interested in directing a super sized blockbuster or a superhero film seems slightly improbable.

Women make up 52% of movie audiences, but it doesn’t mean that women directors must exclusively tell stories about women. Ava Duvernay is a great example; she wrote and directed Selma, a $20 million biopic about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet in spite of being the first black woman director to receive a Golden Globe nomination, she did not receive an Oscar nomination. Organizations like the Alliance of Women Directors support and mentor up and coming directors, but when it comes to cracking the Academy or the executive board, the results are usually pretty safe. Studios may bizarrely justify their choices by saying women are less capable of managing and handling risk than men, but if they keep pulling from the same shallow pool of talent, who’s really afraid to leave their comfort zone?

NYFW F/W ’15

Working in Lincoln Center, I have the privilege of a bird’s eye view of fashion week. Most of the time, that’s just starting at the top of the tent from my window, but my morning commute gets more interesting every February and September. Out on the plaza, fashionistas preen and pose for fledgling bloggers and established industry media. New York’s streets are always a fashion show, but Fashion Week kicks it up an extra notch.

In addition to the press surrounding the collections, there’s a lot of talk about this fashion week’s “diversity.” It’s a term that’s thrown around a lot lately but too frequently gets appeased by tokenism; instead of casting the net wide, it’s common to cherry pick a handful of representatives to check a box and stay on trend.

winnie harlow

Winnie Harlow. Photo courtesy of Refinery29

As a black model with vitiligo, 20 year-old Winnie Harlow dealt with plenty of haters growing up. But after appearing as a contestant on America’s Next Top Model,  her flawless beauty caught the attention of Desigual and Diesel. She’s still working towards her ultimate goal: landing the cover of Vogue. If her showing in New York is any indication, it won’t be long until that dream becomes a reality.

brewer

Jamie Brewer. Photo courtesy of Bustle

During Carrie Hammer’s show at Lightbox, Jamie Brewer became the first model with Down’s syndrome to hit the runway. The American Horror Story actress joined other high powered business women like Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant and Microsoft’s Director of Social Good Programs, Wendy Norman. Hammer figured that her line of sophisticated business wear would look best on real life lady bosses; I’d have to agree.

nina perdomo

Megan Silcott for Nina Perdomo. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News

Other shows featured models with prosthetic limbs, in wheelchairs and using walkers. Antonio Urzi of FTL Moda partnered with Fondazione Vertical, an Italian nonprofit supporting research on spinal cord injuries, to send a whole fleet of non-traditional models down the runway. Yet perhaps my favorite moment occurred during Nina Perdomo’s show. The Academy of Art designer featured Megan Silcott, an 18 year-old currently recovering from Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis. Three years ago, the disease left Silcott paralyzed from the neck down, but that didn’t stop Silcott from taking her turn on the catwalk. As she rounded the final turn, the next model seamlessly strode down to take her place.

Taken as a whole, I’d say these small changes are a good first step. So much of fashion is about imagination and the fantasy behind it. But if, according to an analysis of the S/S ’14 season, 79% of models are white, then what exactly does that say about this desired fantasy world? It smacks of the same flawed logic as those who argue that a hobbit, a storm trooper, or Annie can’t be anything but white: in an imaginary place, these limitations on appearance live only in a person’s mind.

Perhaps this homogeneity reflects what’s behind the runway: only 12 of the Council of Fashion Designers of America‘s 470 members are African-American. It seems premature to deem the entirety of this season as incredibly diverse; rather, small pockets of people embraced a broader swath of the population. At any rate, this focus on diversity stems from cultural demands reaching far outside the boundaries of fashion. From television and films to government and business, a growing number of people want to see a broader representation of society.

AntonioUrzi1

FTL Moda/Antonio Urzi. Photo courtesy of MindBodyGreen

But it’s unclear as to whether or not the industry as a whole recognizes that it is, in fact, a tiny microcosm of society. With the expiration of its lease in Damrosch Park, Fashion Week must find a new home come September. If a New Yorker on the street can’t buy a ticket, the city says, its exclusivity violates the terms of using public land. Limited access leads to an insular environment and less opportunity for change, but some major players are speaking up. Say what you will about Kanye West, but his vision for Adidas stretches well beyond the fashion world’s narrow definition of beauty; a self-proclaimed “Robin Hood of fashion,” he wants clean lines and sleek style to be accessible to everyone. His show featured a fleet of models with wide ranging aesthetics, not as branding tactic but because his posse reflects his target audience: actual humans. For West and other like-minded designers, moving away from an army of seven foot tall beige 16 year-olds just makes sense. It’s not a trend; it’s a movement, and the resulting inclusion will never go out of style.

Lean In Collection

As I cruised the Internet yesterday, I stumbled upon a link for Getty Images’ Lean In Collection. Started in partnership with LeanIn.org, Sheryl Sandburg’s women empowerment organization, the collection contains over 3,000 images of strong women and girls.

 

The phrase “lean in” is typically associated with career aspirations, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the term used in a broader context. There are plenty of photos of mothers and children, women biking or going for hikes, and even a 75 year-old shot-putter, proving that you can lean in to whatever facet of your life you choose.

Like any project, there is always room for improvement. While there are many images of women and children of color, a larger number represent white subjects. I was also puzzled by several images of women in hijabs using tablets literally titled “Woman Using Tablet.” (Due to copyright restrictions; I can’t embed them; you’ll have to look them up yourself.) Is it just a coincidence, or do people actually think that it’s surprising to see a Muslim woman using a tablet?

Quick searches identified more gaps. It was more difficult to find images of lesbian couples than straight couples; trans women and women with disabilities were virtually non-existent. The project is off to a good start, but it still has plenty of work to do.

Fortunately, the Getty not only displays and sells these images; it also funds their creation. A portion of the sales goes directly to the Getty’s grant program which funds photographers’ personal projects. So to all my photographer friends out there, let’s pick up our cameras and fill in the gaps.