2 June 2017
Women in Growth Capital Call for Men to Champion Equality
Women need to be fearless in asking men to champion equality, a meeting hosted by the New Zealand Private Equity & Venture Capital Association at the Auckland offices of Chapman Tripp heard recently (10th May).
The gathering of women with an interest in growth capital markets was told by all three featured speakers that men had a vital role to play in improving gender diversity in the capital, venture and private equity sector in New Zealand.
Speaking at the Women in Growth Capital meeting Del Hart, Portfolio Manager, External Investments & Partnerships - NZ Super Fund said: `There needs to be a greater focus on changing thought. I’m a strong believer than men have to play a role, especially at a senior level.’
Nicole Connolly, Executive Director at IPIF Management, an unlisted infrastructure fund’s management business she created in 2014 and also Director, Investor Relations at Allegro Funds, an Australian based restructuring/turnaround private equity manager targeting mid-market transactions across Australia and New Zealand, agreed: We need male champions for women in the work force and we need to encourage men to be accountable for change. A lot of work places have flexible work policies but often they’re designed with women in mind which perpetuates the problem. It is important to ensure that men have the same opportunities to spend time with their families without threatening their jobs and career prospects. A recent survey showed that 76% of men have a partner working part time or not at all, but only 15% of women do.’
And Marisa Fong, who co-founded The Madison Group, successfully growing it to become New Zealand’s largest, privately owned Recruitment Company before selling it to a public company in a textbook deal said: `Positive action is taking time to happen. We seem to have gone backwards in representation for women. I’m supportive of quotas now as there continues to be a lack of senior women in leadership and on boards and despite a lot of rhetoric, no real progress. We also need to get more women to be aspirational about growing their own businesses.
Many women elect not to join the boys’ club but the only way to achieve change is to get men to understand the benefits of greater diversity. Men need to mentor women so they experience the challenges women have. Only by living it, do they see what women are up against. So go and ask them to do it. Be brave and put yourself in their line of sight. It’s all about confidence and self-belief. Personality plays a more important part than gender.’
Heather Lee, Business Development Director at M information technology company, Ansarada, co-sponsor of the workshop pointed out: `This meeting is about encouraging women to be fearless. It is about connections and helping hands. It’s an opportunity to connect with other fearless women. I’m passionate about seeing women thrive.’
Del Hart added: ` Women are totally outnumbered in asset management. The opportunities that came along for me were because I was in the right place at the right time. Flexibility is a key requirement for me with two children. I choose to work four days a week and that balance is right for me. I’m more effective sometimes out of the office and you have to have a manager who is comfortable with that.
`I think it is important for a woman in finance to be authentic, be yourself and build respect that way. Balancing family and work is a challenge and at times you have to make compromises. For me, working part time is a conscious decision I have made so I am more accepting of related compromises.’
Nicole Connolly said: ` My husband took 18 months off work to be with our two children so I could concentrate on my career. Now it’s his turn, and along the way I have created my own flexibility because of our particular family dynamic. No matter what you have to stick to your passion; Work with people you like and who like you; know what good looks like and how to bench mark; take risks, have faith: have patience and resilience; remember that sometimes 80% is OK; nurture your networks and protect your reputation.’
Colin McKinnon, Executive Director of the New Zealand Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, explained that: ` Diversity in all forms is a strength and this meeting is about developing leaders who value diversity. Investing in growing businesses takes courage, skill and experience. To build scale it helps to lean on experienced and sophisticated investors and entrepreneurs. NZVCA and the supporting organisations are pleased to bring together leading women who are connecting and investing in growth businesses.’