Palatine host Gender Balance event:

How do you create a more gender balanced workforce?

As part of our ESG programme, we recently hosted an event on gender balance and the business opportunities it brings. During the one-day forum we identified what we can do within our portfolio to attract and retain a better gender balanced workforce, including practical advice on identifying and addressing unconscious bias. CEOs and their fellow HR colleagues heard from guest speakers who showcased examples that are proven in practice, whilst having the opportunity to network and share stories with each other in addressing gender balance.

Tim Farazmand, experienced non-executive director within the financial services industry and Chairman of the Palatine Impact Fund began the day by discussing how to accelerate progress in the area of gender balance including addressing the importance of champions and highlighting examples of leading female role models within business.  Tim expressed that through diversity and inclusion, we can enable growth by bringing together different views, ideas and driving innovation. He championed role models, leading from the top and engaging young people, from school age, as a long-term solution to enabling gender balance.

Tim concluded his presentation with a short panel discussion between himself and some of the wider Palatine team; Managing Partner; Gary Tipper, Head of the Impact Fund; Beth Houghton and ESG Manager; Stephanie Wall. The panel shared how gender balance across their portfolio has improved over the years and is monitored as part of Palatine’s ESG programme. Gary highlighted the successes and discussed where improvements could be made in line with the firms KPIs and aspirations for a higher representation of females on boards within their portfolio

We were then joined by Chairman and NED, Tracy Lewis. She shared her personal experience on her journey to CEO in a PE backed business, and how important it is to have male allies and female role models inside and outside of business. Her personal experience illustrated how important gender balance is in ensuring that your business, regardless of whether you are selling goods or services appeals to all demographics within your target market.

We invited Vic Stewart as a guest speaker. Vic is Finance Director at portfolio company The Alchemist and Founder of the 6% Club – which aims to drive diversity in dealmaking. Vic believed that the three things that truly enable a gender balanced work force are flexibility, confidence and networking.

Importance was placed on businesses reviewing flexible working policies for both men and women and having open conversations with all the workforce, aimed at reducing the stigma associated with men requesting flexible working arrangements.

Vic also shared her experience on developing and upskilling existing talent, for example; allowing more junior colleagues to attend important meetings, which gives them the opportunity to see themselves as an expert and helps build their confidence. Also, she encouraged both female and male executives and directors to be transparent within their work diaries if they have personal commitments. For example; attending a school play, going to the gym/yoga.

Finally, Vic encouraged women to prioritise personal branding through networking which she says is integral for progressing in business.

“Equality of opportunity makes for a better business and community.”

Vic Stewart
Finance Director – The Alchemist

During the afternoon we received unconscious bias training from Jayne Little from Skills4UK. session Jayne explained that we need diverse teams with challenging and conflicting ideas to succeed. However, our unconscious quickly influences our decision making, and this can lead to the recruitment of homogenous teams. Jayne provided us with practical tips on how we can eliminate unconscious bias in the workplace, some of which included:

  • Blind recruitment; removing gender, age and education from CVs
  • Fair allocation of opportunities
  • Understanding everyone’s barriers and motivation values
  • Building a common workplace culture
  • Ensuring consistent messaging at all levels

The day was concluded by Justine Delroy and Andrew Green from Addleshaw Goddard who spoke about their female career development programme, Flourish. The innovative programme was established to tackle the pertinent issue of gender disparity at senior levels. Justine shared tips on how to develop and implement a gender diversity programme, how to overcome any internal challenges to gain buy in from within the organisation. She and Andrew also discussed their measures of success and focus for continuous improvement.

According to industry research carried out earlier this year women hold only 10 percent of all senior positions in private equity and venture capital firms globally.  At Palatine 35% of management roles are held by females, which is something that we are proud of and believe to be important to our success. We are taking steps to help increase the proportion of females on our boards as we believe gender balance is an integral part of building innovative and sustainable business that will achieve great results.

Suggested reading:

  • Work Like a Woman: A Manifesto for Change by Mary Portas
  • Women in Tech: Take Your Career to the Next Level by Tarah Wheeler
  • Work with Me by Barbara Annis and John Grey