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Why you shouldn’t call female investors “girls,” according to a VC



urban innovation fund vc
Julie Lein (left) and
Clara Brenner are cofounders and managing partners of Urban
Innovation Fund.

Urban Innovation

  • Clara Brenner is an up-and-comer in Silicon Valley tech
    investing. Her firm, Urban Innovation Fund, just raised $22
    million to invest in startups.
  • Brenner says something that “grinds her gears” is when
    founders and CEO say, “Hey, girls,” in emails to her and her
    female cofounder.
  • While calling women “girls” may not be intended to be
    patronizing, according to Brenner, words matter in the


“Hey, girls.”

It’s a simple email greeting.

Clara Brenner sees those two words land in her inbox at least
once a week.

She and Julie Lein cofounded a venture capital firm, called
Urban Innovation
, that puts money into startups building the future of
cities. The firm has only the two female partners, and according
to Brenner, that means they get addressed as girls a lot.

Brenner and Lein are both 33 years old. Neither of them are

“Don’t call women investors ‘girls.’ We get called ‘girls’ a lot,
which just grinds my gears. They’ll be like, ‘Thanks, girls, for
having us.’ Because it’s me, my cofounder Julie, and our
associate, who’s also a woman,” Brenner told Business Insider.

, a news site aimed at millennial women, once put it:
“A girl is a person under the age of 18 who still lives with
their parents. So when you use that term in reference to a
successful woman who has worked hard to get where she is today,
you’re ignoring her accomplishments and diminishing her

Five years ago, Brenner and her cofounder Lein set out to help
companies who are solving important challenges for cities raise
funding. These startups are a tough sell for venture capitalists,
because their products often require a lot of money to launch,
and they face regulatory hurdles from local authorities who
prefer the status quo.

Brenner and Lein launched an accelerator program called Tumml that works with early-stage
startups on urban innovation. The duo is widening their impact
with the new venture firm, Urban Innovation Fund, which
closed a $22.5 million seed-stage fund
in June.

While calling women “girls” may not be intended to be
patronizing, according to Brenner, words matter in the workplace,
where women have historically
earned less
than their male peers and have
fewer opportunities to advance
to the top ranks.

Founders should think twice about how they address women
investors in an email.

“It’s not going to kill your chances, but it’s just sort of
alienating. You’re asking us for money. At least act like you
take us seriously,” Brenner said.

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