Guest Post: Shayna Harris, Co-Founder of Supply Change Capital

Shayna Harris and Noramay Cadena are the founders of Supply Change Capital, a venture firm investing in the changing face of food. By 2045, the “minority” will be the “majority” in this country and Supply Change is looking at all the ways this will continue to impact what and how we eat.

On a more personal note, Shayna and Noramay represent something astounding and breathtaking in venture well beyond their gender. They are thoughtful, brilliant, kind, and generous. For all of you out there who grew up in industries (like law and finance) where it was (directly or quietly) announced that success required being a total d*ck, you will understand how profound this is.

It's International Women’s Day and we can't think of any better way to celebrate than with an ode to the woman who inspired our name: the great Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 * * *

One of my most formative & fond memories in adulthood was seeing the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg in conversation with Judge Ann Claire Williams at the beautiful Auditorium Theater. It was a special night for a few reasons. 

First, I was attending with my two aunts and my cousin - four Harris women who are lifelong progressives and women's right advocates going to see the Greatest Of All Time. I was giddy. 

And second, I was the COO of a food tech company at the time. We had been fundraising. And I was experiencing all of the dynamics of pitching to all white male teams, mostly in Silicon Valley. I was invisible in the room - more so than I ever felt in corporate boardrooms or with the mostly all white male teams in my corporate job (although that was still bad). It was one of the most deflating experiences of my life.

So, you could say that I was in a moment of my life where I needed a little pick me up from a badass female leader. And that badass was RBG.

The part of the conversation that I will never forget, and that has colored my leadership approach ever since, went like this. I am paraphrasing, but this is how I remember it.

RBG: The Supreme Court has had only 4 female justices in its history. That is (in 2017) less than 4%.

Judge Ann Claire Williams: Well, how will you know when there is enough? When will we have reached parity? What is the end game?

RBG: When there are nine.

Mind. Blown. 

When there are nine.

That phrase has rung through my brain ever since. It has changed the way I think about - well - everything. When do we reach ‘enough’? When there are nine.

The reason this stung so deep is that it felt a lot to me like the business world I was (and still am) living in. I had no female mentors who had sat in the C-Suite at Mars or at Oxfam. My mentors were amazing men, but no one was going through what I was as a young mom and a woman. And I was not seeing any female GPs who owned their own food tech firms on Sand Hill Road.

“When there are nine” left a searing impression and became a rallying cry. 

It has informed my thinking ever since. Here is how it goes in my head:

How do you recruit diverse teams? Put a damn woman in leadership. (Oh, and the research on that from Harvard is here).

How do you diversify the investment pipeline? Put a damn woman in the decision-making seat. (Oh, and the research on that from Kauffman is here).

How do you build a stronger business with better returns? Make her the CEO (here) or the CFO (here). 

You get the jist. 

The way this has manifested at Supply Change Capital, the investment firm that Noramay Cadena and I co-founded in 2020, is tangible. We are both deeply rooted in this core belief. 

Consider our numbers. Our investments are diverse:

Percentage (%)  of funding to
Supply Change Capital 
Industry Average 
Female CEO/ founder
57% female CEO/Founders, representing 60% of our investment dollars

Under 2% of investment dollars in 2021 (source)

Female of color CEO/ founder 42% female of color CEO/Founders, representing  48% of our investment dollars 

Black women, 0.34% of investment dollars in 2021 (source)

Black and Latina women less than 1% of investment dollars in 2020 (source)

Why are we seeing such diversity across the board? This is what I call “Full capital stack diversity.” Our investors and decision makers are Female and BIPOC. This means that:

  • Our pipeline is diverse
    • We have looked at nearly 900 deals to date
    • 60% the deals we have seen are led by a woman, BIPOC, or LGBTQIA+ founder 
    • 14% of those are led by a woman of color (we have work to do here!
  • Our team is diverse
    • We are a 100% woman-led, 50% Latina-owned firm
    • We work with female-owned & led service providers (Legal: All Places, Compliance: SEC Compliance Solutions, Operations: Strut Consulting)
    • Our Supply Change Fellows are 50%+ female, and they are reviewing deals with us
  • Our LPs are diverse
    • Over 50% of our LPs are Female, Black, and/or Latinx. 

So, if the message wasn’t clear enough, this International Women’s Day I want to share a really simple message. Building diverse teams is not complicated. Investing in women and founders of color is not complicated. But it does require elevating and making space for us. 

Doing the thing leads to the outcome that you want to seek. We will continue to lead by example at Supply Change Capital, catalyzing diverse teams and creating intergenerational wealth.

That is what RBG meant when she said, “When there are nine.”

--Shayna Harris

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