Employees are the largest dataset on the Carta platform. This year, we’re able to report on employee ownership of equity intersectionally. We’ll first look at ownership by race and ethnicity, then by gender identity, then we’ll look at the two together.
By race and ethnicity, who has employee equity?
Together, Black and Latinx people make up 29% of the U.S. labor force—that is, Americans who are working or available to work. But they make up only 16% of employees who hold equity. What’s more, these 16% of employees collectively hold only 9% of the total value of employee equity. Twenty-nine percent of America’s workers holding only 9% of employee equity is concerning. We’ll dig into possible reasons in the next few charts.
White people are very slightly underrepresented among equity-holding employees, making up 62% of the U.S. labor force and 58% of equity-holding employees. White employees collectively hold a bit more equity than we would expect based on their numbers. They comprise 58% of equity-holding employees, and own 65% of the equity.
While Asians make up only a small percent of the American labor force (5% for East and South Asians combined), they’re overrepresented among equity-holding employees, making up 19% of equity-holding employees.1 Unlike their white peers, however, the amount of equity they collectively hold (20%) is nearly on par with their numbers of equity-holding employees (19%).
Some of the disparity that we’re seeing for underrepresented groups is due to the fact that equity-holding Black and Latinx employees are less likely to hold roles in job areas where equity amounts tend to be larger. For example, 7% of equity-holding employees are Black, but only 3% of product roles, which have a robust median of $12,000 in equity held, are filled by Black employees. (Note that median amounts of equity held are determined using 409A valuations—take a look at our methodology section to see how it works.)
An exception to this trend is Black representation in human resources, where the median amount of equity held is an above-average $10,000. Black employees fill 9% of these roles—more than the 7% we would expect based on the number of Black employees who hold equity.
Customer support and administrative roles, which have the lowest median amount of equity held in our dataset, of $3,000 and $4,000 respectively, also have more Latinx employees than would be expected based on their percentage of equity-holding employees. While 9% of equity-holding employees are Latinx, 13% of customer support and administrative teams are Latinx.
Black and Latinx employees are also more likely to hold junior positions that come with lower levels of equity. Whereas these two groups comprise 16% of equity-holding employees, they make up 25% at the entry level, and only 7% in the C-suite.2
White workers, in contrast, make up 58% of equity-holding employees and only 49% of entry-level workers, and occupy 76% of the C-suite.
While East and South Asian employees are both well represented in high-equity job areas, their numbers differ when we look at job level. East Asians make up 14% of equity-holding employees, but they represent only 9% at the VP level and 6% in the C-suite. In contrast, South Asians represent 5% of equity-holding employees, 11% of VPs, and 7% at the C-level. South Asians are, in fact, more overrepresented in the C-suite (1.4x) than white employees (1.3x).
We might expect Black and Latinx workers to more often hold junior positions if they are younger—and these groups do have a lower median age in the U.S. population. In Carta’s dataset, there are age differences by race and ethnicity: The median age of equity-holding Latinx employees is 34, three years younger than the median white employee.
But overall age is a small difference; it’s unlikely to fully explain the size of the equity gap that we’re seeing. We suspect that it is not age, but differences in job area, industry, and level—and the biases and structural circumstances that contribute to these differences—that drive much of the equity gap by race and ethnicity.
By gender identity, who has employee equity?
While 47% of the U.S. labor force are women, only 35% of the employees on the Carta platform who hold equity are women. The value of their equity grants in 2021 is only 27% of the total value of employee equity on Carta—meaning that 73% of total equity went to men. (Reminder: Non-binary people are not represented by the data this year.)
As with the broader gender salary gaps, much of the difference is due to men often holding different—and more highly compensated—roles than women do. The fact that men hold those roles is due to a number of social factors, including lack of representation, bias in the education pipeline, and a need for flexibility for the family care duties that more often fall to women. (There’s also research showing that bias is a factor in perception of roles: When more women enter a field, compensation drops.)
Women employees are less likely to hold roles in certain highly compensated job areas—including engineering (which had a median amount of equity held of $13,000 for mid-level employees between 2016 and 2021) and finance (with a $9,000 median). On the other hand, women are well represented in human resources ($10,000), and marketing ($8,000) roles.
Gender disparities in some job areas have more impact on overall employee equity than others. For example, engineers make up 17% of all equity-holding employees, and over 40% of all equity-holding men are engineers. In contrast, legal teams—which also have robust equity amounts and where women are well represented—make up less than 1% of all equity-holding employees.
How do gender, race, and ethnicity intersect for equity-holding employees?
Looking at the intersection of gender with race and ethnicity, we see significant differences between equity owners.
Race, ethnicity, and gender intersect in different ways. Within most race and ethnicity groups, the median amount of equity held is higher for men than for women. The one exception to this is that East Asian women earn slightly more equity than East Asian men ($8,500 compared to $8,000).
White women, meanwhile, receive 60% of what white men receive. Latinx women hold the least equity among all groups—their median amount of equity held is $4,400, compared with $12,500 for South Asian men, the group that held the most.
Some of the disparity between men and women within each race and ethnicity group is because women are more likely to hold more junior positions. Within every race and ethnicity group, women make up more than half of employees at the entry level, and fewer than half at every other level.
This pattern within the venture ecosystem is quite consistent with research on women in the workplace that shows a “broken first rung” between entry-level and mid-level jobs and a narrowing pipeline to the C-suite for women of all ethnicities.
The gender gap within each race or ethnicity group is greatest between South Asian men and women, and smallest between Black men and women.
1 Note that for our analysis of employees, Southeast Asians, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders are included in “Other,” which also includes American Indians and Alaska Natives. We hope to be able to consider more race and ethnicity groups in our analysis in the future as our dataset grows; please see our methodology section for more.
2 You may have noticed that C-suite executives hold a lower median amount of equity than those at the VP level, even though CEO, CTO, and other C-level roles are generally considered more senior than VP-level roles. Whereas companies of all stages and sizes tend to have C-level executives, generally it’s larger and more mature startups that have VPs as well. We believe that’s the likely source of the difference.