I had the privilege of speaking on a Dow Jones Spreecast last week with three other female industry experts. Below are some takeaways for women considering a career in private equity/venture capital:
1. Venture capital is not like other financial industries: In other words, don’t be deterred by what you think of traditional investment banking. Venture capital firms focus on new and emerging businesses, and tend to be less conservative when it comes to evaluating opportunities. VCs also provide more than capital to help companies grow. For example at NVP, we also provide relevant domain expertise, a rich network of contacts and a breadth of services to add value to our companies.
2. Find a mentor or sponsor: In order to elevate yourself to a management role in venture capital or growth equity, you should find yourself a mentor who can advise, guide and help you navigate your career path. But, recognize that even with a mentor, you will need to find a champion who is willing to go to bat for you as you move up the ladder.
Keep in mind your mentor or champion doesn’t have to be a woman. More often than not, your best ally will be a man, particularly because there are more of them in management roles in this industry.
3. Start early and stick to it: For private equity and growth equity investing, joining a firm at the entry associate level and moving up the ranks is the best way to enter the buy-side world, versus trying to make the move later in your career. On the Venture capital side, there are some opportunities for successful entrepreneurs to transition their way into the investing sector.
Also, the longer your career in private equity/venture, the easier it is to come back (if you choose to take a break to start a family). You’ll be at a more senior level at the time you leave. If you choose to enter early and stick to this career path, I think you’ll find, like me, that this is one of the most fulfilling and tangible careers in the financial industry.
4. You CAN have it all: For those women who want a career, or who already have a career, in private equity: you CAN have it all! You don’t have to choose between career and family. Two of the four experts with whom I spoke on this panel have four children under the age of eight, including myself. Of course there are trade-offs, but I have found the fulfilling nature of the career worth it.
The more that female executives and investors can help educate, attract and retain qualified female candidates, the more opportunity we’re creating for female partners and women-owned investment firms.
Here is the link to the Spreecast, or view the embedded video below: