Women in tech

OneVentures, a pioneering VC with female leaders, says sorry for featuring blokes in an IWD post

- March 9, 2023 3 MIN READ
Michelle Deaker
OneVentures founder & CEO Dr Michelle Deaker
Every chance it gets, OneVentures touts its credentials as “Australia’s first female-founded VC firm” with cofounder Dr Michelle Deaker as its public face.

She’s one of two female founders, alongside Anne-Marie Birkill and Paul Kelly. Last year the business added Sarah Meibusch to the leadership team as Partner.

But the faces the Sydney VC chose for a LinkedIn post on International Women’s Day – nine blokes – has delivered a 10x ROI of anger from the startup community, the deletion of the post and a subsequent apology.

While OneVentures hasn’t used Twitter since mid-2022, journalist Mark Di Stefano offered screenshots of the LinkedIn post, including initial criticisms and the company’s attempt to explain why they did it.

It should be noted that as part of the post, the VC emphasised that “gender camaraderie has been a core part of our organisation since our launch”.

The company said its partnership gender split is 50/50, the investment team is 55% women/45% men, and the finance and operations team has a 50/50 split.

We’d be interested to hear from any company who can better those figures. It would be fair to say that OneVentures walks its talk.

While the business said the intent of the post is was to acknowledge the men in the organisation who were their allies, it wasn’t long before the responses led the VC beat a strategic retreat.

The post was deleted, replaced with an apology that reads:

“A mea culpa from OneVentures. It’s evident from comments on our post this morning celebrating International Women’s Day that the post has caused offence to some of our followers.

“Our intention in using the image we did was to highlight the gender camaraderie that we take so much pride in at OneVentures, and the role our male colleagues play uplifting and supporting the many incredible women in our firm. In hindsight, the photograph we chose was a mistake and we can see how it could come across as insensitive. For this we apologise unreservedly, and appreciate your feedback and comments to bring this to our attention.”

Fellow VC, Jessy Wu, investment principal at AfterWork Ventures, weighed in with a cogent response.

“I think it read as particularly tone deaf, partially because “but what about the men” is a historically charged rhetorical device that has dogged women’s rights movements for centuries. It’s been used to deflect or minimise the key issues that female activists are trying to centre,” she wrote.

“Centring male allyship on IWD (without sharing any examples of camaraderie that’s above and beyond being a decent and collegial human) perhaps perpetuates the stance that even on IWD, the conversation can’t just be about women. That men need to be thanked for letting us occupy pride of place for a day. That we’re grateful they deign to ‘check their bias’ at the door in the workplace, and enlightened enough to support investments that help menopausal women with dry vaginas.”

Dr Deaker also took to LinkedIn to apologise:

“We have had lots of discussions at OneVentures the last 12 to 18 hours and it’s been a time of deep reflection. We can absolutely understand the response to our post yesterday. We made a mistake and I’m unequivocally sorry for our misjudgement. The post certainly didn’t represent who we are and what our team believes.
“International Women’s Day is first and foremost a day to recognise the significant barriers that women face in society and business and support each other in overcoming these. At OneVentures, these themes are deeply embedded in our core values and amongst our entire team. Having been one of the first female founders of a VC firm and as a tech entrepreneur, and having experienced these barriers first hand, helping others overcome them is very important to me.
“Having had the honour of working and leading a truly diverse team with over 50% women and with broad participation at all levels of our organisation, our purpose matters to the entirety of the team. I want to assure our fantastic female colleagues, investors and founders that we will continue to support them in overcoming barriers and creating a more equitable society. Once again, we apologise for yesterday’s post. It does not reflect who we are and what we stand for.”

Startup Daily sought further comment from OneVentures, but the offer was declined.

The company planned to follow up with profiles of the women in the organisation after its IWD post. None have yet appeared.