June 11, 2015 / 9:42 PM / 4 years ago

Venture firm Greylock hires first female investment partner

SAN FRANCISCO, June 11 (Reuters) - Venture capital firm Greylock Partners, which passed on the chance to invest in Pinterest four years ago, is hoping to hit a bullseye by tapping the online bulletin board for its first female investing partner.

Greylock said Thursday it has hired Sarah Tavel, Pinterest’s founding product manager. She joins as the technology industry is battling a reputation for shabby treatment of women.

Venture in particular has come under fire, in part due to a high-profile discrimination lawsuit brought by former Kleiner Perkins partner Ellen Pao against that firm.

Although Pao lost her suit earlier this year, it shone a spotlight on the scarcity of women in venture capital. Just 4 percent of senior investment partners are women, according to data from consulting firm Pitchbook, down from 5 percent five years ago.

Many top firms have no senior women partners in the United States, including Sequoia Capital, Benchmark, Meritech Capital Partners, NEA, Andreessen Horowitz, and Bessemer Ventures.

Some venture firms blame a dearth of women with appropriate backgrounds, typically a person with a strong technical or product experience. But women’s advocates counter that many highly successful male venture capitalists lack those backgrounds, and say venture firms do not try hard enough to find qualified women to hire.

In Tavel’s case, she brings product experience at six-year-old startup Pinterest, valued at $1.3 billion at its last funding round. There, she oversaw projects such as launching Pinterest internationally.

“Sarah has a proven track record as both an investor and an operator, and because of her credentials, we believe Sarah will be an excellent investment partner at Greylock,” wrote Greylock partners David Sze and James Slavet in a blog post, acknowledging the hire would draw attention due to her gender.

“That said, we are incredibly happy to have a woman joining the investing team; it will bring greater diversity and valuable perspective to our partnership and portfolio companies.”

Greylock has had women partners in areas outside investing, such as marketing, and currently employs a female investing associate.

Tavel will start Aug. 31. (Reporting by Sarah McBride; Editing by David Gregorio)

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