The last British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) Women’s Breakfast, sponsored by PER, featured an insightful talk from Catherine Lewis La Torre, CEO of British Patient Capital and British Business Investments. Her address and the ensuing discussion among the female-strong audience of private equity and venture capital professionals emphasised the benefits of diversity and inspired us to help speed the pace of progress in the industry.
Part of the discussion revolved around the recent British Business Bank’s UK VC & Female Founders report, which revealed that for every £1 of venture capital investment, less than 1p goes to all-female led teams. This seems to me like a massive underrepresentation of women in our industry and an example of what needs to change.
I was inspired to be ambitious and encourage our clients to embrace diversity – ensuring that we at PER do everything we can to achieve equal representation of men and women in our client firms.
Thought-provoking points about unconscious bias made me question the socialisation of gender norms that begins at pre-school and how the patterns we learn at a young age about male and female behaviour are repeated all the way through to the workplace. I’ve certainly seen some of this in my career and am much more attuned to trying not to perpetuate these patterns.
During the questions, an audience member said that she had been told she had a typically female trait of apologising too much. It was heartening to see the response from speakers and the audience that women needed to stop saying sorry and realise that they deserve to be in the room. While it’s important for us to take our place confidently, it is also clear to me that women do not need to behave in a way that is perceived as typically masculine to succeed; there is room for real authenticity and embracing all the strengths that diversity brings.
Of particular interest to me were the comments around diversity in recruitment and the importance of a truly diverse candidate list, with CVs focusing on skills and experiences. It was even suggested that gender, educational history and anything that could encourage bias should be removed from CVs. This is certainly something I will be debating with my colleagues when I return to the office.
At the end of the session, it was inspiring to see Catherine leading by example, and proudly sharing a photo of the British Business Bank’s leadership team, which is already gender balanced and representative of minority ethnic groups. She told us that this photo was what the future looked like and should be what we’re aiming for across the industry.
PER is proud to be a sponsor of the Women’s Breakfast series, and I, for one, will certainly be attending future events.