12 minutes


International Women's Day 2023

To celebrate #InternationalWomensDay we are spotlighting influential women who are part of the private equity deal making ecosystem.

A recent report by Beauhurst reveals that 27% of equity deals in the UK, in 2022, went to female founded or co-founded businesses - up from 24% in 2021. Whilst the improvement is positive, it highlights the importance of actively being inclusive when supporting founders and individuals in the investment ecosystem.

This International Womens Day, we spoke to eight influential women who contribute to the private equity and venture capital community. We discussed what can be done to #EmbraceEquity to support the next generation of female founders, chairs and investment managers.

Click the boxes below to review their responses.

Marvee-Lisa Booker, CEO and Founder of Postworks - an award winning platform for sending and receiving letters.

The people - we've got such incredible talent at Postworks. We hire for character first, then culture and then competency.

I also love that I get to decide how we run our company. We do things like one year full pay maternity leave, duvet days, free lunch, and monthly rewards. It's a lot of fun being able to create the company you would have loved to work for as an employee.

Get more females on Investment Committees, more female chairs, and more events to find female founders at the grassroots level. There are so many benefits to having more female founders, with recent MIT research showing that female founders generate more revenue and have lower failure rates than their male counterparts!

Firstly - relief! But that was quickly replaced with a massive feeling of privilege. As I looked around my table, the team surrounding me genuinely wanted me to win - I felt quite overwhelmed that they cared so much about me being recognised. That feeling was far better than the award and the award selfie with Paddy McGuiness!

Jill Ireland, CEO and Co-Founder of HomeLink Healthcare - a clinically-led organisation providing safe, high-quality Hospital at Home services to NHS patients.

Address the barriers - try to understand why women are underrepresented and subsequently put in place mechanisms to address this. Examples I’ve seen work well are having positive role models, access to peer-to-peer support for mentorship and providing networking opportunities for female founders. All of these are really important.

This is vital for us at HomeLink. The majority of people within the business are women. We offer flexible working, including part time and term time hours, which 54% of our workforce have taken up. This makes a huge difference in supporting those with childcare or other care commitments. Without this flexibility, some might have given up work entirely to prioritise their caring responsibilities.

If I go back to the beginning of my career, before I even started my nursing training, it has to be the founders of St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth. A team of like-minded people – one of those being my mum - set up St Luke’s Hospice in the early 1980s. The hospice’s ethos was to provide an alternative to hospital-based nursing for those needing palliative care. This sounds almost ordinary now but, back in the early 1980s, it was truly ground-breaking. Looking back, I can see how working with the team of exceptional women at St Luke’s, at such an early stage in my career, instilled in me the belief that anything is possible!

Farzana Rahman, CEO and Co-Founder of Hexarad Radiology - an end-to-end radiology platform built to achieve fast and accurate diagnosis for everyone, everywhere.

Have confidence in your vision and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Surround yourself with the right people; this is both within your business and who you hire, as well as your support networks outside of work. I’ve found the wisdom and advice from other female founders invaluable. I met a great group of female founders through the London based Hatch Accelerator Programme, a community of entrepreneurs and experts where you can get support to launch, grow and scale your business. Myself and Amy, Co-Founder and CCO of Hexarad, have a quarterly dinner with women we met through the programme - Sharon Peake, Sheena Pirbhai and Tanya Patel are all incredible founders and trailblazers in their industries.

One of the most valuable offerings at Hexarad is our unlimited study budget, it allows employees in the Company to take full ownership and control of their learning and personal development. This is helped by having female leadership at board level - promoting an open and inclusive culture that encompasses our six Hexarad values: teamwork, integrity, equality, quality, innovation and patient-centred.

Dr Beatrice Lafon, Chair of Crosstown - an award-winning producer of handmade sourdough doughnuts, ice cream, cookies and speciality coffee.

In my professional experience, at one company, I helped to implement a number of positive initiatives. These included assessing the company’s structure, establishing regular meetings and tracking KPIs to provide transparency on problem areas. Communication was improved through annual staff surveys, recognition awards, the hiring of a Chief Happiness Officer and quarterly townhall meetings. We listened to the teams across the business and executed benefits such as a companywide bonus scheme, flexible working and provided training courses available to all. Can you guess which course was always oversubscribed? Excel!

Supporting and including all employees provided lots of benefits - we went from loss making to multimillion pound EBITDA in 18 months, and we eliminated our retention and recruitment issues. We became the high margin business of that sector, demonstrating how a workplace that supports all employees works for all stakeholders.

The biggest shift has been in awareness and a desire to get this right. More practically, accessibility tools that help companies track their key HR ratios are extremely valuable. These typically provide insights into a company’s D&I data, such as pay by age, median pay, and CEO salary to median and lowest pay. As a CEO, NED and chair, I always seek out this data in my first month at a new company – this highlights where we need to focus our time, and the areas that need improvement.

Rebecca Ganz, Non Executive Director at BlueSkeye AI - a producer of a technology that can comprehend mood and mental wellbeing, enabling healthcare to be approached from an AI perspective.

For me, there are two. Firstly, there is so much evidence that diversity supports more effective outcomes for organisations across the public and private sectors. Secondly, everywhere I operate, diversity of thinking and lived experience is central to optimal talent management.

It now seems that the business and ethical cases for diversity and inclusion have been made conclusively. However, the implementation is patchy. To put it another way, we are now moving on from the 'why' to the 'how' of driving effective inclusivity - which is a hugely positive step.

Every day a WOB member is appointed to a new non exec or trustee role. Having celebrated its 10th birthday in September 2022, WOB is looking to the next 10 years as a purpose-led business, aiming to increase diversity across executive and non-executive leadership.

Alongside this, WOB provides effective, timely support to accelerate executive career ambitions. We support aspiring, early stage and established non execs and trustees on every aspect of their role, with an array of formal and informal resources and networks that build skills, experience and resilience. It’s great fun!

Elaine Warburton, Non Executive Director at ReadyGo - a diagnostics business that detects infectious diseases.

People constantly inspire me! I have met thousands of like-minded - and some not so like-minded – people. A little part of the way they thought or conducted themselves has influenced me to be the person I am today. When times were hard, my mother used the phrase “it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.” I feel that I am now that tapestry of experiences and feelings, which I guess is a pre-requisite for being a good chair.

With the exception of my early nursing career, I have spent most of my working life in wholly male dominated workplaces. My fellow 1960s, 1970s and 1980s generations of women have used every ounce of diplomacy, tact and kindness (plus a few marches!) to push and work towards achieving gender equality. This is now reflected in the workplace - it is only in recent years that I find myself sitting alongside some amazing women at board meetings.

Danielle Gubbay, a Senior Investment Manager based in our London office.

Female founders bring a whole host of benefits in terms of diversity, market insights, performance, and social impact. Increasing diversity, both at the founder and senior management level, provides unique insights and perspectives on markets and consumer needs - often leading to the identification of new and untapped market opportunities.

There are many routes into venture capital! Don’t be put off if your background isn’t the typical ‘corporate finance CV.’ My journey into venture capital took a while; I raised capital for an early stage fintech and ran my own e-Commerce business before doing what I am today.

My advice is: be persistent, don’t take no for an answer, and recognise there is huge value in bringing a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and ideas to the table.

Investors play a vital role, both in terms of the investments they make and advocating for diversity in the companies they invest in. This can be through helping to implement policies and best practices; increasing diversity at all levels within a company; and through supporting organisations and initiatives that are working to promote gender diversity and inclusion.

On a personal level, investors can act as mentors – offering advice and facilitating connections with other successful women in industry, helping to build and establish networks.

Tavia Sparks, a Senior Investment Manager based in our Leeds office.

Be comfortable in your own skin! Women should feel confident in who they are and what they bring, after all we’re in our roles because people value our contribution and see our potential.

Investors can help to play a part in driving and accelerating the ESG agenda in their portfolio companies. Whether it’s through investing in areas to create and protect high-quality, sustainable jobs or investing in innovation to accelerate developments in technology.

We know the big impact smaller companies can make - positively benefitting their local areas and society. Click here to learn more about our Inclusion and Diversity initiatives.

If you know of any ambitious teams seeking investment, please contact our team on peinfo@foresightgroup.eu.

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