Celebrate the region’s best women on International Women’s Day

Photo shows: Professor Sarah Gilbert, who led the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine development
Professor Sarah Gilbert

Today is International Women’s Day. As a business established and owned by women, NK Media – the publishing company behind Business & Innovation Magazine, is delighted to celebrate this event.

According to a report by business consultancy McKinsey, companies with more than 30 per cent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives, or none at all.

And companies are listening.

The UK is now second in international rankings for women’s representation on boards at FTSE 100 level, with nearly 40 per cent of positions now held by women, compared with 12.5 per cent a decade ago.

More than a third of FTSE 350 board positions are now held by women, with the number of women on boards increasing by 50 per cent over the last five years, new data shows, representing a dramatic shift in representation at the very highest levels of British business.

We are delighted to report on, and celebrate, successful women and in the last week alone, we reported on:

  • Jas Schembri and Jo Goodall who have built an app that supports teenagers through puberty. They won the Oxford Saïd Entrepreneurship Forum annual pitching competition at Saïd Business School.
  • Hannah Saunders, founder of Toddle and mum of two boys aged three and six. Hannah “turned the dragons into pussycats” according to BBC Dragon’s Den presenter Evan Davies. Hannah, from Gloucestershire, described how she had launched a skincare range for adventurous kids. She secured £60,000 from two dragons.
  • Yumello, a planet-friendly peanut butter brand established by co-founder Esther Lopez in Bristol but inspired by the people of the Atlas Mountains, which is seeking £300,000 in crowdfunding on Seedrs to develop and grow.
  • Lorraine Robinson who set up The Roost Luxury Glamping in the Forest of Dean which was named Best Rural Tourism Business in this year’s Rural Business Awards. Since reopening after the pandemic it has been named one of the top 15 Great Cabin Getaways in the UK by The Sunday Telegraph and was awarded two Gold awards – one from Quality in Tourism, the other from Green Tourism as well as a Gold Award for Best New Business in the South West Tourism Excellence Awards.
  • Samantha Payne, MBE, co-founder of Open Bionics, which is now manufacturing world’s first medically-approved 3D printed bionic arm in Bristol.

There are many more stories along these lines, but in truth? THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH! Please keep them coming.

  • Another recent stories was Northrop Grumman in the UK (NGUK) which has partnered with Niyo Network on their Black Codher Bootcamp, a charitable initiative aimed at engaging, encouraging and recruiting more black women to take up rewarding new tech-focussed careers.
  • and of course there is the phenomenal success story that is Professor Sarah Gilbert (pictured), the woman behind the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. Last Year, Vaccitech Ltd, the Oxford-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company behind the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, raised $110.5 million on its debut on the Nasdaq Global Market in the US. Vaccitech was founded in 2016 by Professor Sarah Gilbert and Professor Adrian Hill as a spin out from Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, one of the most prestigious vaccine centres in the world. The company is based at the Oxford Science Park.

Today, at arguably the most highly respected girl’s college in the UK, Cheltenham Ladies College, Eve Jardine-Young – Principal of the College, Janis Sinton – Managing Director at Bristol-based food technology company TasteTech, Nicola Whiting – Best-selling author; Cyber security expert, public speaker and award-winning mentor and Alice Roizer – Early Careers Group Team Lead and Senior Engineer, L3Harris Technologies will be speaking at an event organised by another successful women-led business, Circle2Success, which facilitates business networking across the region.

Despite all this good news, funding and investment into female-led businesses lags behind that of male-established companies and it’s clear that more work is needed to embrace diversity of all kinds across the UK venture capital industry.

Judith Hartley, CEO of British Patient Capital, said: “International Women’s Day shines a light on the amazing work of women across multiple industries. However, it also serves as an important reminder that a lack of diversity remains an ongoing issue, especially within the venture capital industry.

“Currently, only 13.3 per cent of VC firms and business angel groups have women in investment decision-making roles, despite growing evidence that diverse teams are more innovative and generate higher revenues. The findings of last week’s Rose Review Progress Report are encouraging* but remind us that funding remains the number one barrier facing female entrepreneurs at every stage of their business journey. Total VC investment levels in female founders remain at under five per cent, according to British Business Bank analysis of Beauhurst data.”

*The Rose Review revealed that in total, 134 institutions with an investing power of nearly £1 trillion have now signed up to the Investing in Women Code. The Investing in Women Code is a commitment by financial services firms to improving female entrepreneurs’ access to tools, resources and finance. The Code commits lenders and investors to collect and report data about their performance backing female-led firms and the number of signatories has leapt by a half over the past year.
But research conducted for the Rose Review shows that the impact of Covid-19 risks holding back progress. It suggests that despite the rapid growth in female led start-ups, female entrepreneurs have spent twice as long on caring responsibilities during the pandemic as their male counterparts, and that their businesses have been less likely to recover.

Judith added: “There is huge latent economic potential to be uncovered by increasing investment in female entrepreneurs. When first published in 2019, the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship estimated that up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men. Furthermore, Morgan Stanley has estimated that venture capital funds that fail to invest in women and other under-represented groups risk losing out on as much as $4.4tn.

“British Patient Capital is the largest domestic investor in UK venture and venture growth capital and we want to help improve diversity within our sector.

“Within our portfolio of fund managers, we work with some incredible women who are in leading positions in their fields. These include Kate Bingham, Managing Partner at SV Health Investors and chair of the UK Government’s COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce in 2020; Irina Haivas, Partner at Atomico, who led their investment in Healx, a company that uses AI to find cures for rare diseases; and Kerry Baldwin, Managing Partner of IQ Capital and BVCA Chair for 2021/22. We engage with our fund managers, to help them improve their approach to diversity and inclusion within their own teams and also in the companies they back. As the leading investor in UK venture and venture growth, we firmly believe we have a role to play in demonstrating best practice and driving change in this area.”