Sam Smith, CEO:
Today is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is "Choose to Challenge", which recognises the need to call out gender bias and inequality.
At finnCap Group I'm proud to say that women make up 40% of our workforce, an achievement that has been made through fostering a culture of inclusivity. But I truly believe that such cultural change is only possible through having more women role models in leadership positions. That's why we are calling on UK businesses to increase the number of female executives – something that is currently severely lacking.
Indeed, whilst the recent Hampton Alexander Review indicates there are now thankfully no FTSE 350 companies without any female board members, many firms have achieved this by promoting women to non-executive directorships. By contrast, there are still only 17 FTSE 350 female CEOs.
We believe that the flatlining female executive pipeline needs to be tackled in order to create change. But by that I certainly do not mean taking men out of the equation.
Instead, it means shifting corporate culture, with flexible working and progressive maternity policies to level the playing field. Ironically, this is something that the pandemic has helped highlight, making many more businesses aware of the pressures of childcare. But COVID-19 also risks unwinding years of progress toward gender equality. As a result of home working, lots of women have been effectively working a double shift through combining full time jobs with home schooling and caregiving. The risk is that many women may end up leaving the workforce, leading to fewer future female leaders, as well as an immediate impact on many companies’ culture.
So as we recover from the pandemic, we choose to challenge businesses to ensure they make work more compatible with family life and care responsibilities.
There is also the challenge which many female business founders face when trying to raise capital.
For example, a recent report by Extend Ventures found that 68% of the capital raised across the seed, early and late VC funding stages went to all-male teams. By contrast, just 3% went to all-female teams (who also raised lower sums of money than their male counterparts at each funding stage).
For me, one of the reasons I believe this is happening is because inequality can perpetuate itself.
For example, men often have more developed business networks, which matters because start-up founders who are recommended to a VC firm by someone they know are 13 times more likely to get funded.
To really make a difference requires a cultural shift. That’s why for this International Women’s Day, finnCap is also choosing to challenge more VCs to start running office hours where founders without ties can connect with investors and get advice.
We also believe that every company has its role to play in tackling gender bias and inequality, and not just on International Women’s Day.
At finnCap we take Environmental, Social and Governance – EGS – very seriously, and one area where we feel we can have real social impact is in education.
In particular, we want to encourage more young women and girls to know that they have it in them to found and lead their own businesses.
That is why we believe there should be an increase in programmes that collaborate with schools to encourage a foundation of early interest in entrepreneurship.
So I am proud to announce that finnCap Group will be working with Founders4Schools and YourGamePlan, connecting educators with business leaders.
At the same time, we always want to support our clients in their own ESG ambitions.
That’s why we recently announced a partnership with sustainability fintech company World Wide Generation (WWG), in order to provide businesses with a new digital sustainability monitoring and measurement App, called Company Tracker.
The App also incorporates metrics from finnCap’s recently launched ESG Scorecard, which provides small and mid-cap quoted companies with an objective means of measuring their ESG performance against key policies, standards, and frameworks.
So those are all the ways that this International Women’s Day, we are choosing to challenge, and will continue to do so as we always have.