To achieve the global mission of having equal gender representation in leadership positions across industries, it is important to drive the shift in power in the hands of more women at all levels. Arushi Jindal (MBA ’23) begins with her own industry, finance and investing.
I grew up in an extended family where I am the first professional woman—no woman in the history of our family had worked outside the home. But to their immeasurable credit, despite family pressures, my parents held their ground and supported me in pursuing my dreams of a career.
I was elated to land my dream job after university, but my joy quickly crashed when I realized the world of finance and investing follows the same pattern in that we do not have enough women in leadership positions.
The investing industry drives the maximum impact in supporting growth of new ideas in an economy and given the increased investment capacity and interest in the last few years, it shows us how the future of various industries could look like. More importantly, investing can play an important role in equal gender participation by having diverse teams in portfolio companies and funds and by having more diverse LPs, helping to drive change at a grassroot level.
Unfortunately, still much of the decision-making is not distributed equally between men and women, and this disparity ultimately has led to an underwhelmingly low support to women founders and startups serving women. According to a report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), women held only 10% of all senior positions in private equity and venture capital firms globally. India’s numbers were at 7%. Fewer than five funds focus on women entrepreneurs or have a gender-based investment focus in India.
Over the short yet immensely adventurous five years of my professional experience, I have grappled with a few major challenges as a woman in the industry and have come across several other challenges interacting with other women in the industry:
- Lack of mentorship and role models: I started my career with two other junior women who joined in the same year, and we did not know what women in leadership roles could look like. Given the mere 7% female representation for PE/VC funds in India, many women have found it challenging to picture themselves as female partners. Lack of mentorship and role models also makes it harder for women to break into the network-heavy industry.
- Imposter Syndrome: Almost everyone at some point questions moving out of their comfort zone and asks whether they are worthy or qualified to do whatever they are aiming to do. It is a fear which has struck women harder by setting a higher benchmark for their own evaluation as compared to their male peers. Another example is that of “Diversity Hiring” —while it helps the cause, the process creates an illusion of being hired because of gender and not because of merit.
- Lack of funding to female founders: As per Venture Intelligence, funding to female founders in India was only 6.5% in 2019. It is fair to say that more female partners at the decision-making table can support more female or mixed-gender startups, thus, creating a flywheel effect. However, the lack of female investors serves as a disincentive to many highly capable female founders to pursue their startups or raise additional rounds of funding.
Learning through the experiences of other women and through my own career, I realized we all faced the same challenges, unaware that we are all going through the same things.
Following many discussions with other women investors, I co-founded Headway Circuit along with a friend in the industry. Headway Circuit is one of India’s first women-only communities of investors in the first decade of their careers. At Headway, we want to focus on addressing the implicit gender bias at the grassroot level to avoid attrition as one goes up the ladder. As most of the women at Headway are aspiring for a long-term career in the industry, having healthy interactions with our peers and seniors is helping us build our vision.
We want to solve for gender parity in the investing space through our three-pronged objectives:
- Networking: Given investing is a relationship and network-driven business, one of our key objectives is to provide a platform for women to build a social and professional network in the industry, right from the early stages of their careers, as they move up the ladder.
- Training and education: We provide coaching and knowledge workshops focusing on investing themes in India, long-term career opportunities in India, work-life balance, and MBA-related discussions. Events include sessions across different sectors and investing stages, with senior women professionals and peers in finance and investing.
- Mentorship: We provide mentorship to women aspirants, both professionals and students, wanting to build a career in finance and investing. Some of our events include one-on-one interactions and group sessions, networking with headhunters, and working with like-minded global organizations.
This community has given us the perfect place to warmly discuss everything from navigating gender biases at work to careers and investing, while building a strong sense of community.
With 500 million internet users, a young population, massive consumer growth, and VC investments reaching close to $20 billion by 2021, India is a fitting example of a dynamic and growing investing ecosystem. Given the massive investment and growth opportunity, it is extremely important to make sure there is equal gender representation where the capital flows to empower the next generation of women investors and women entrepreneurs. Through this network, I have realized the inherent desire amongst all of us to make a difference in the world, and we hope that Headway Circuit can be used as a platform to pass on the baton to other women and encourage the shift in power to achieve equality.
If you’d like to mentor, organize a session, volunteer or attend events, or just catch-up for a coffee chat, please do reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org! Here is also a link to our website which has details for our members, in case you’d like to connect with anyone else in the team. You can also find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Arushi Jindal (MBA ’23) is from India. Prior to HBS, she was an investment professional at Mirae Venture Investments in India and South-East Asia, looking at growth and early stage tech investments. Prior to joining Mirae, she worked at Elevation Capital looking at early stage tech investments. She started her career as a graduate management associate in investment banking at Citigroup India. She graduated with a Bachelor in commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi.