Whilst evidence suggests that gender diversity in the UK PE industry is increasing, it is clear that there is still a long way to go, as discussed in our Private Equity – DE&I in Focus report.
To further the discussion, we have launched the Livingston James ‘No Diversity No Deal’ interview series. Here, Livingston James PE and VC specialist Sophie Randles catches up with Siobhan Moore, Investment Manager at SIS Ventures, a part of the Social Investment Scotland group. The company invests in mission-led businesses to help address society’s greatest challenges and needs.
What first attracted you to work in Private Equity (PE)/Deals community?
After qualifying as a CA, I worked in Corporate Finance for almost eight years, and this gave me exposure to a real variety of deals – from early-stage companies looking to raise investment to later stage acquisitions and exits. In addition to representing the companies, we also acted for a number of PE houses, so this really increased my awareness of PE deals and what these investors look for in an opportunity. I loved meeting with such a range of businesses and the natural excitement from working with ambitious entrepreneurs.
How long have you been in your current role and what was your career path to get there?
I joined SIS Ventures just over a year ago and was attracted to the hands-on, active investment management approach we take with our portfolio of high growth, mission-led businesses. There’s no doubt that my Corporate Finance advisory experience helped me secure my current position, as both roles help entrepreneurial businesses to achieve their growth ambitions. Having advised many start-ups on how to approach investors, it’s inspiring being on the investor side now and great to see how many young companies care about their mission and building a responsible business.
In your view what should organisations do to promote diversity, particularly relating to women in the PE/Deals industry?
We’re at the point where organisations need to be doing more than simply thinking about diversity and inclusion (D&I), it needs to be a central part of business planning and the message needs to come from leaders that D&I matters. In the absence of clear messaging, the risk is that staff will look to certain indicators (such as the number of females in leadership positions, how inclusive the company’s maternity/paternity policies are, the gender pay gap) and make a judgement based on what’s available.
Diversity training should also be something that all staff members participate in, especially focussing on areas such as unconscious bias, the business case for D&I and its relevance to an organisation’s success, the importance of inclusive language and helping individuals to view diversity as an opportunity instead of a box ticking exercise.
It’s also really important that organisations are honest about where they currently are in terms of D&I, recognising that it will take some time to make progress. At SIS/SIS Ventures we recently carried out an anonymous survey of employees and other key stakeholders to understand our current position and to help us identify future areas for improvement and action.
Discussing diversity, what has worked in your organisation and how it can be developed?
SIS/SIS Ventures really values diversity of people and ideas, and our website includes a detailed statement of our recent progress and aspirations for the future. Our D&I activities are led by a cross-team working group that research best practice, listen and learn, develop and deliver annual action plans, and respond to emerging needs on a more ad hoc basis. We also actively seek out partner organisations who can guide us on this journey and help us to evolve.
In terms of our investment activities, SIS Ventures has a particular interest in investing in businesses founded/led by people who identify as female. We prioritise funds to invest in mission-driven businesses led by under-represented founders and management teams, and those engaging with diversity-smart businesses. We have taken time to analyse where our deal flow is coming from, and expanded our referral network to enable access to a wider pool of investment-ready founders from different backgrounds. Finally, we love to support events and opportunities that enable females to consider becoming investors and to develop skills and experience to become investment leaders at pre and post-investment stage, and/or to sit on investment committees.
What value can be created from having a diverse workforce?
There’s a really thought-provoking idea I came across recently called the Waterline of Diversity. It uses the concept of an iceberg to show above the water, the key features that tend to be apparent when you meet someone – such as gender, race, ethnicity, physical ability. Below the waterline, however, there’s so much more that differentiates people – including life experience, value systems, perspectives, sexual identity, learning style, heritage and many more.
In my opinion, a diverse workforce creates more balance, a variety of different perspectives and ultimately better decision-making outcomes. Personally, I value the learnings I gain from working with a diverse group of colleagues. Also in an investment capacity, I believe it’s essential to have diversity among the key decision makers.
What advice would you give to other women interested in a career in Private Equity?
Be brave and go for it! I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a few very inspiring female role models who believed in me and encouraged my ambition. I would urge women who are considering a career in Private Equity to seek out their own role models and make the most of these relationships. When I look at the PE market now compared to when I qualified for example, I’m delighted to see some progress in terms of diversity, but that journey is only beginning.
To find out more about our No Diversity, No Deal series; or for a confidential discussion about your PE and VC executive search requirements, contact [email protected]