The Table Stakes Study: 2020 analysis of equity distribution by gender, race & ethnicity & geography

The Table Stakes Study: 2020 analysis of equity distribution by gender, race & ethnicity & geography

Author: The Carta Team
Read time:  3 minutes
Published date:  December 9, 2020
Women and people of color are underrepresented in the groups that earn the lion's share of equity. Learn more in this year's Table Stakes study.

In the last two decades, the private markets have created unprecedented wealth, yet only the privileged few have had the access or ability to benefit from it. Just as everyone can benefit from the wealth creation of public markets, everyone should benefit from the wealth creation of private markets.

In 2018, the #ANGELS called for transparency and measurement in how equity is distributed on the cap tables of startups; as we know, what doesn’t get measured can’t be managed. With over one trillion dollars in equity held on Carta’s platform, this might be the only data set in the world that can provide that analysis.

Today, we unveil the third annual Table Stakes report using Carta’s data to analyze equity distribution of privately held venture-backed companies. In 2020, we added the ability for Carta users to self report their gender, race, ethnicity, and parental status in the application itself. Thanks to our users who self-reported, this year we were able to expand the report to include an analysis of equity distribution by race and ethnicity in addition to the analysis by gender.

We hope that the Table Stakes report helps all stakeholders in the startup ecosystem better understand how we as a community can drive more equitable equity distribution. We know there are four categories of corporate stakeholders that earn the lion’s share of equity:

  1. Founders

  2. Senior executives

  3. Early employees

  4. Technical employees

As the 2020 Table Stakes study shows, women and People of Color are underrepresented in each of these categories. Sadly, there has not been meaningful change in representation since 2018, when we began this study. Moving these numbers will take the entire startup and investor ecosystem working together. In this year’s report, we have also highlighted organizations that are actively driving change on those dimensions. We hope to see that list grow exponentially in the forthcoming years. And Carta will continue to provide this analysis for the community every year.

Our data also show that 65% of vested equity options go unexercised. We know that there are many barriers, including financial hurdles, contributing to employees not exercising their options—but lack of education should not be one of them. That’s why we are launching Equity Essentials, a fundamental curriculum designed to help employees learn about the basics of equity compensation. Carta will offer this education for free to 100,000 employees across the country.

The stakes are high, but we can close the equity gap. Visit to read the full 2020 study and learn more.

Methodology note: The Table Stakes analysis uses equity data from 520,000 employee stakeholders on Carta, representing over $32.3 billion in equity. Our company founder analysis represents 24,850 founders managing their cap tables on Carta. Companies who have contractually requested that we not use their data in anonymized and aggregated studies are not included in this analysis. Gender is non-binary, however, we were only able to associate names to women and men. Moreover, we recognize that identity intersects across gender, race & ethnicity, and therefore our findings may not fully represent the experiences of People of Color and non-binary individuals. As we continue to receive more self-reported data, we will work to incorporate intersectionality into our analysis. For more information on methodology, visit

The Carta Team
While we believe in assigning ownership at Carta, this blog post belongs to all of us.