BVCA brings the private capital community together to mark International Women’s Day

Isobel Clarke, Director of Policy, shares her reflections on the BVCA’s Inspiring Women breakfast event.

3 min readMar 8, 2024


8th March. International Women’s Day. This year the theme is #InspireInclusion.

There are 140,000 people working in the #privatecapital ecosystem, with 14,000 of these working directly in investment firms. And there are over 2.2m jobs in businesses backed by private capital. We are an important part of the economy and could have a potentially outsized impact if we get this right.

Private equity and venture capital are on a journey, with only 12% of senior investment professionals in the UK being female. While this is double the proportion 5 years ago, there is still more to do.

So, this year we took the opportunity to hear from two inspirational women with experience beyond private capital, to learn from their experiences.

I was delighted to host the BVCA Inspiring Women breakfast event yesterday morning which brought together people from across the private capital community to hear Seema Kennedy OBE and Salma Shah share their experiences working in politics, regulation, tech and coaching.

A few of the highlights for me were:

  • Hearing how Seema Kennedy worked with the late Jo Cox MP to set up the Loneliness Commission — an important initiative to address a key challenge today. A great example of working across the political divide towards a common goal.
  • Hearing from Salma Shah about being one of the few women in tech in the 1990s, and the challenges she faced and lessons she learnt. She went on to found her own business, becoming a published author and being a true disruptor within the coaching and mentoring industry.
  • Enabling me to talk briefly about how my job share with Sarah Adams protects our time out of work and brings two heads to tricky policy issues. Job sharing is an incredibly mutually-supportive way of working.
  • Fielding brilliant and insightful questions from our audience, which clearly showed the challenges women are facing and the desire to support each other to address them.

So, what did we learn?

  • A good supportive network which makes you feel secure is essential. Find and keep your cheerleaders and try to be one for others.
  • Role models are vital — but these need to be varied to reflect different situations and aspirations.
  • Know and understand your triggers so you can manage challenging situations effectively.
  • Confidence in yourself comes with experience — so don’t be afraid to keep going. Be aware of developing ‘dysfunctional resilience’ i.e. fitting in with cultures you don’t like.

While International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to shine a light on the challenges and inspire others, there is still lots to be done and we all need to look at ways we can drive change both today and every day. One of the most thought-provoking comments we heard was around shifting the narrative from “fixing the women” to “fixing the system”. We all need to play a part in that.

Authored by Isobel Clarke
Director of Policy, BVCA

Originally published on the BVCA website on 8 March 2024.




The British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association represents over 600 member firms, including more than 350 investment funds and institutional investors