Over 130 finance professionals gathered within the gilded walls of the Connaught Hotel, Mayfair recently for the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association’s (BVCA) Women’s Breakfast. PER was there to lend its support, hear from inspirational women and meet some of the industry’s brightest female stars.
The morning kicked off with coffee, pastries and plenty of time for women in private equity and venture capital to meet and discuss their careers. Once everyone was seated, Amy Abbott, Director of Events and Training at the BVCA, gave an overview of the work the BVCA has been doing to support women in finance. This included signing up to the Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter, launching research into women’s representation in private equity alongside Level 20 and organising outreach to improve the perception of careers in the industry among women.
Amy introduced Joana Rocha Scaff, Managing Director and Head of Europe Private Equity at Neuberger Berman, for the keynote address. Joana reflected on key moments from her 19 years in the industry, using her experiences to pass on advice to women in the audience.
Joana’s first recommendation was to take risks. While not encouraging recklessness, she suggested women take more of the opportunities that come their way. She recalled an opportunity to do a month’s M&A work in Brazil that turned out to be a three-year project. If she had known this at the outset, she confessed, she would never have taken the risk on the role, but she’s ultimately glad of the experience she gained.
One of the most important aspects of her career progression, Joana said, had been mentoring, particularly from the mentors she built herself using the positive characteristics of the teams that surrounded her. She looked to the intelligent, hard-working and principled people she worked with and followed the examples they set.
Questions were opened to the floor and the discussion covered issues such as the female tendency towards modesty; managing childcare and a full-time job; the impact of the millennial workforce on work / life balance in finance roles; and the paucity of women in the candidate pool for private equity roles.
One attendee asked what changes Joana would make to the industry if she could wave a magic wand and in response she returned to her first point about risk taking. Joana said that she hoped women in the industry would encourage each other to seek opportunities and be confident.
The audience, after hearty applause, entered into animated discussion about the topics raised before departing for work with a refreshed and optimistic perspective on the future.