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‘Find your tribe’ and other learnings from FPE’s inaugural event to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021


6th April 2021

On 25th March FPE hosted a webinar in keeping with the 2021 International Women’s Day theme of Choose to Challenge, titled How do we drive gender diversity and inclusion in the PE & tech industries?

The webinar was hosted by Alison Ettridge, Head of Talent at FPE and CEO of Talent Intuition. Alison was joined by Sarah Kerruish, Chief Strategy Officer at Kheiron Medical, Alys Carlton, Leadership Coach at Alys, Beth Peckover, VP Operations at Kallik, and Harriet Hunt, Investment Manager at FPE Capital.

The discussion covered a broad range of topics from the importance of using data to drive change to candid, personal insights from the panellists on their experiences of being a ‘woman in tech.’

What does the data say on the benefits of gender diversity and inclusion in the PE and tech industries?

The benefits of gender diversity and inclusion (along with the broader ethnic background and race diversity and inclusion agenda) have long been touted as important from a social impact perspective. However it is by collecting data on gender diversity within businesses and correlating this to financial performance that we become more aware of the positive financial impact of having a diverse workforce. According to McKinsey’s 2020 report ‘Diversity wins: how inclusion matters’, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25% more likely to have returns above their national industry median. This is surely reason enough for business leaders to be monitoring and taking measurable action to improve gender balance in their teams.

Whilst there have been great strides made in recent years to more diverse workforces (and it is important to celebrate these), there is more to be done. This is particularly true in the Private Equity and Tech sector, where a statistic joining the two shows 93% of capital invested in technology companies went to all-male founding teams.

The panel discussed reasons why the gender imbalance in Private Equity and technology sector exists, and what we can all do to drive sustainable positive change.

1. “Do you know you’re the only girl studying computer science?”

It is unsurprising only 34% of all STEM graduates are women, if young females are hearing such messages. In order to provide a steady stream of females who possess the technical skills to be considered for a job in private equity or technology, we need to be encouraging young females to study STEM subjects from an early age.

Changing perspectives on what a career in either of these areas means is also key. Educating younger females on the opportunities available and helping them to develop the technical skills required should in time move the dial on female STEM graduates.

2. Confidence vs competence

Too often we get carried away by confidence, when what really matters is competence. Women are too easily persuaded they are ‘not good enough’. The diversity and inclusion conversation is ever more being led by data, and as part of that, women also need to consider the hard facts of what they have achieved so far, and what they are capable of doing, rather than being persuaded (by themselves or others) they are ‘not good enough.’

3. Flexible working is here to stay

There is no doubt that the year of lockdown has challenged us all. Women have in particular felt the brunt of balancing careers with ‘home duties’. In many ways as a result, there has been a flattening of the curve on improvements in gender diversity across the workplace. It is not all doom and gloom, however. The requirement to work from home has shone a light on the fact that working remotely does not reduce productivity.

The conversation can be pushed one step further to agile usiness performance rworking, which has been the modus operandi of our development teams for a number of years. Shifting the focus from the individual to request a flexible working arrangement to an agile workforce, in which business objectives are married with working styles, so that the focus is on bather than when, where or how this is done will open up a whole new talent pool that may previously have not been attainable.

4. The value of mentoring and coaching

Most people, whether they realise it or not, have a mentor, who is able and prepared to give advice and share experiences to help guide their career. These fluid, informal arrangements are sometimes the most successful, as they develop organically and are based on chemistry. Whilst a Mentor takes on a ‘telling role,’ and enables the mentored to gather info, a Coach is in an ‘asking role’, and is focused on enabling individuals to unlock limiting self-beliefs, help create self-awareness and develop the confidence to take the next step. Both are important in helping women (and men) grow in their careers.

5. Network network network!

A unanimous area of agreement across the panel was that building a network of individuals in similar roles with varied lengths of experience can be incredibly helpful in navigating your own career. There are a number of events put on through the year for both women in tech and private equity, and attending these is a great starting point in developing your network. Taking this advice further is to find your tribe – a group of confidants who encourage you, distil your deepest fears, and celebrate your greatest successes.

FPE Capital is committed to the diversity and inclusion agenda, and as part of this is a signatory of the Tech Talent Charter, a non-profit organisation leading a movement to address inequality in the UK tech sector.