International Women’s Day 2022

In celebration of International Women’s Day, four women who work with UCLTF – Anne Lane (CEO, UCL Business), Pauline Stasiak (Investor, UCLTF), Buffy Price (Co-Founder, CarbonRe), Leigh Brody (Investor, UCLTF) – shared their insights into working in the technology transfer and investment space, and how we can encourage more women to get involved.

What’s the best thing about working in the technology and investment space?

Anne – You are working with some of the best minds in the world and helping to enable the discoveries they make to have the maximum benefit for people and the planet.

Pauline – Having the chance to learn about and champion investment into a variety and scope of cutting edge technologies that you believe could at some point make a difference to the lives of patients with debilitating or life-threatening conditions.

Buffy – We founded Carbon Re with a mission to reduce carbon emissions on the gigatonne scale. Being part of a team that has the capability to achieve such a profound impact is incredibly motivating. As we are faced with daily news reports on the crisis in Ukraine and the bleak predictions from the latest IPCC report, developing a practical solution that can make a positive and tangible difference in the short to medium term feels more important than ever.

Leigh – There are too many to name just one! It’s a thrilling, fast-paced and incredibly meaningful role which gives you the ability to learn about a breadth of exciting technologies and potentially play a role in supporting them in transforming the world.

How can we ensure women’s voices are heard in this space?

Anne – I think this has to start as early as possible in education. Grant funding structures are also not conducive to raising a family or supporting those with caring responsibilities. This is reflected in the large number of female post-docs, but the small number of female professors.

Pauline – By being visible to women as an investor in the space and giving women a platform to talk about their experience at conferences and via social media. By positively encouraging women to apply for positions in this space and by providing coaching and mentoring opportunities e.g. internships.

Buffy – We need representation at all levels. Beyond recruiting more women and ensuring that women are represented on committees and panels, this means retaining people by creating and maintaining an inclusive environment where everyone has the space and opportunity to speak up and be treated respectfully. This is a continuous process and something that we have to examine constantly as business leaders.

Leigh – There are many things that can be done, such as continuing to examine the power structure and ensure women are in positions of power. A great example of this is Anne Lane, the CEO of UCLB.

Recent research has shown that only 2.3% of VC funding went to women-led startups in 2020. How can we change this?

Anne- The demographic of the VC community and company boards currently reflects the type of people they invest in. Once that changes, I think we’ll see the percentage of investments into female-led startups increase.

Pauline – We need to understand what the drivers for this statistic are and find ways to influence those drivers to change that percentage. It’s likely to be a combination of factors from both sides of the equation: there may be misconceptions or unconscious gender bias on the part of some investors about the value of women-led start-ups, and there may be misconceptions or lack of knowledge on the part of women-led entrepreneurs about how the investment process works, knowing how and who to approach with your business plan and being more networked. Having more women on investment teams and more women who write the cheques would make a difference.

Buffy – Many VCs could be better at recognising the strengths that diverse teams bring to business. There are now VCs who will only invest in companies with a woman on the co-founding team and this is something that we could see more of. Investors have a lot of power to change the status quo.

Leigh – First step is being aware of these kinds of metrics and looking at the investment process to see if there are any conscious or unconscious biases. I think it’s important to reflect on the journey – company formation, raising funds, forming the Board or operational execution – and observe if there is a lack of diversity at any step and whether that may introduce a bias in the process of funding women-led startups.

How can we continue to encourage women to become entrepreneurs and investors?

Pauline – Start early. Talk to girls from a young age about career possibilities in this area to break down barriers and perceptions about the types of careers open to women. If you are a woman in the space ask your local girls school if they would like you to give a talk about your career path.

Buffy – Becoming a co-founder of a startup was not something I had ever envisioned for myself and many circumstances had to fall into place for me to be in this position today. Now that I am here, I wish I’d had the confidence to do this much sooner and would definitely encourage other women to enter this space. There are a lot of allies and mentors out there – both men and women – and much more appetite to work in flexible and new ways.

Leigh – Much like a startup CEO never stops recruiting, a female investor should never stop promoting other women to enter the space. Continue to encourage other women through events, mentoring, or general networking. It’s an incredibly exciting and rewarding role which needs the best and the brightest to develop the technologies of tomorrow.

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