The Wisconsin Technology Council hosted a virtual Wisconsin WOMEN reception yesterday to discuss the growing role of women in angel investment, venture capital and entrepreneurship. WOMEN stands for Women, Opportunities, Mentors, Entrepreneurs, Networking.
The panel included Andrea Dlugos, co-manager of Wisconsin Investment Partners; Richelle Martin, managing director of the Winnow Fund; and Dana Guthrie, managing partner of Gateway Capital Partners.
“I think we are making strides in the right direction but we still have work to do,” Dlugos said. “Providing visibility to women in the investment world is certainly a step in the right direction.”
Wisconsin currently has 13 funds with female managers and five funds that have been founded by women, said Tech Council President Tom Still. He added the funds span the state from Milwaukee to the Northwoods and Madison to Green Bay.
“There also appears to be a growing ‘youth movement’ that is attracting more women,” he said.
At Wisconsin Investment Partners, 20 of 82 active members are women — a number Dlugos is always looking to add to.
In her role at the Winnow Fund, under the Badger Fund of Funds umbrella, Martin focuses on pre-seed stage investment in innovations coming from college and university campuses. She said the Badger Fund increased the number of women fund managers by 100 percent, including Guthrie.
Both Guthrie and Dlugos said women offer a different perspective on investments, opening up more opportunities.
“Having any type of differing background or experience allows you to bring a different perspective to the table,” Guthrie said. “When you are looking at deals, you have an ability to connect and empathize that someone without that experience may not.”
Dlugos, Martin and Guthrie have felt welcomed and supported as members of the Wisconsin investment community, but being the only women in the room can be uncomfortable, they said.
“My approach to that is to just keep showing up until it is not weird anymore. Across the board, it is becoming normal for women to be a part of these events,” Martin said. “Wisconsin has been a great place for me to enter this ecosystem.”
The cure to unfamiliarity, Guthrie said, is having more women get involved in the space.