[Exclusive Interview] This Platform Empowers Women To Become Leaders, Entrepreneurs, Investors & Change-Makers

Mohul Ghosh

Mohul Ghosh

Sep 14, 2023

Recently, we interacted with Ms. Nupur Garg, Founder of Winpe – a platform that promotes gender diversity in the investing world. WinPE works closely with women investors, entrepreneurs and also aspiring entrepreneurs, by creating a space that supports their professional success.

Here are the interview highlights:

1- Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it led you to become the founder of Winpe?

I myself am a Woman IN Private Equity! My background as the founder of Winpe stems from my experience as an investor in private equity and venture capital funds. During my time leading IFC’s (International Finance Corporation) funds business in the region, I noticed a striking lack of women in the industry. I also observed that nothing really changed over the decade that I spent in that role. When I decided to step away from a full-time job and turn entrepreneur, I was determined to build a portfolio of work that would utilize my investing experience, knowledge, and skills while also addressing a meaningful issue.

One of the ideas that formed firmly in my mind was to take action to address the low representation of women and promote gender diversity in private equity. With this, I began reaching out to firms and individuals within the PEVC industry to discuss my vision. I heard excitement and a strong desire on the part of industry leaders to support this cause. Winpe came into action.

Winpe is a not-for-profit platform specifically focused on creating gender balance within the investing industry. It is designed to be a platform driven by the PEVC industry to bring about initiatives and resources for women in the industry. Through Winpe, we aim to bring about positive change, foster opportunities, and empower women in private equity and venture capital. By leveraging my experience and network in the investing world, I have been able to establish Winpe as a meaningful initiative dedicated to promoting gender diversity and empowering women within the industry.

2- How do you see the growth of women in India’s investment landscape?

The growth of women in India’s investment landscape has been slower than one would have liked but we are beginning to see a change. Winpe has played a crucial role in raising awareness and advocating for more women as investors and entrepreneurs. This has helped amplify the conversation surrounding the need for gender diversity in the investment industry.

Both firms and women themselves have become more aware of the importance of gender diversity. Women are actively discussing and pushing for inclusion within their organizations, and this emphasis on diversity is becoming a significant signal of an employer’s reputation as a desirable one. Firms are recognizing that having a diverse team and portfolio is not only beneficial but also carries weight with their investors (LPs).

There is a growing trend among LPs to evaluate how investment firms are building gender diversity and fostering an inclusive culture. While gender-specific investing mandates are still niche and lack significant scale, the emphasis on diversity is gaining prominence. This shift in investor preferences is encouraging investment firms to actively work towards increasing the representation of women in their operations.

PEVC firms are generally smaller teams that hire infrequently, unlike large corporates. Changes in team composition therefore, are slower and more gradual. With Winpe’s active efforts, there is an increased emphasis on looking at diverse candidates while hiring and a number of new teams are being built with diversity in mind. This is especially true in the VC space. Given the positive relationship between the two, having more women in investor teams is likely to support an increase in women-led companies with PEVC funding. Additionally, the rise of incubators, accelerators, and angel networks targeting women-only cohorts has provided a platform for increasing the number of women co-founding businesses. This ecosystem has created opportunities and support for women entrepreneurs to thrive.

Finally, generational transitions in family offices are contributing to the growth of women in the investment landscape. More women are taking on capital allocation roles within family offices, increasing their involvement in investment decision-making.

However, it is important to acknowledge that achieving gender parity will take time. While the efforts made by all of us in the industry will support women through many of the challenges they face in their professional journeys, some critical factors, especially those attributable to socio-economic factors, will need concerted efforts over a longer period of time.

3Challenges women entrepreneurs face while coming into PEVC field

Entering the field of Private Equity and Venture Capital (PEVC) as a woman presents numerous challenges. Statistics reveal a stark gender disparity, with around 70% of PEVC fund managers boasting all-male senior leadership teams. Female representation as founding partners with control over firm capital stands at a mere 2.4%.  Not surprisingly, only 1.4% – 2.3% of PEVC funding goes to women-led businesses, underlining the financial obstacles women entrepreneurs face. This disparity is mirrored globally, with little variance. 

PEVC lags behind traditionally male-dominated sectors like manufacturing and infrastructure. While women comprise 33% of manufacturing professionals and hold 25% of leadership roles, their presence in PEVC remains sparse. The infrastructure sector reports a similar trend, with only 19% of leadership positions held by women, according to the OECD.

With a historically low number of women in the investment landscape, there have been only a handful of senior and successful women as investors or running investment firms. This absence of role models impacts aspiring women in PEVC, and the absence of relatable examples hampers their desire to pursue a long term career in this industry. The predicament transcends mere inspiration; it symbolizes the possibility of success (or lack of it). The scenario is gradually transforming with Winpe member firms making concerted efforts to build equitable practices that will enable them to  hire, retain and grow women members. But as I said earlier, it is a long journey to parity.

4- How does Winpe differentiate itself from other early-stage private equity firms in the industry?

Winpe (Women in Private Equity and Venture Capital) is actively working towards promoting gender diversity in the Venture Capital (VC) and Private Equity (PE) industries. The organization serves as a platform that catalyzes change by collaborating with private equity and venture capital (PEVC) firms, industry leaders, influencers, and decision-makers to bring about tangible changes in the workplace and working environment in the industry.

One of the key areas where Winpe focuses its efforts is in transforming the policies and practices of its member VC and PE firms. It works with these firms to ensure that their recruitment processes are unbiased and inclusive, and growth paths are charted out giving equal opportunities to both men and women. Winpe works with its member firms in measuring data, tracking progress, and identifying areas where changes made now can have long-term positive impact with respect to gender diversity.

Another area of emphasis at Winpe is the importance of bringing gender diversity to portfolio companies of its member PEVC firms, catalyzing initiatives to build awareness, buy-in, and changes within these companies that will lead to gender diversity in the board room, C-suite, and across the workforce.

In parallel to its work with VCPE firms, Winpe works closely with women who are investors and entrepreneurs and those who aspire to be. It has built a space, a community of professional women from the industry, where they can connect and collaborate for their professional success.

Winpe offers a range of resources to support women in their career journeys. This includes a bespoke one-on-one mentorship program that brings together experienced industry professionals and aspiring women in VC and PE, networking mixers and events to facilitate connections with senior women and role models that provide valuable opportunities for learning and growth. A key part of Winpe’s efforts in to build visibility for women in the industry through speaking opportunities, and visibility + participation in industry discussions and events. For those aspiring to be in the PEVC industry, Winpe offers career resources such as CV reviews, mock interviews, boot camps, vacancy bulletins, and an annual career fair, all aimed at encouraging more women to join the VCPE industry. Membership of Winpe is free for women!

5- What are some of the challenges you faced while building Winpe, and how did you overcome them?

The mission of taking a whole industry towards gender balance is a challenging one to begin with. There are many who express verbal support for gender diversity, but the challenge lies in following that up with specific action. Numerous misconceptions surround the topic, with a common belief being that fostering diversity results in additional costs. The question on why it is important still lurks in many firms. We recognized the need to address these misconceptions and inspire action. From the outset, WInpe focused on raising awareness about the benefits of gender diversity and providing evidence of its positive impact on performance and decision-making. We engaged in open conversations, shared success stories, and encouraged leaders to drive change within their organizations.

Gender diversity is a top down agenda. It needs commitment and will from leaders and at the same time, demands that resources be allocated in order to achieve outcomes. A significant task for Winpe lies in convincing senior investors that diversity is important, working with them in getting them to deploy resources towards execution and, to allocate  management bandwidth for monitoring progress. 

Winpe was launched in February 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded globally. This unforeseen circumstance required us to re-evaluate our plans and adapt to the new reality of remote work and virtual interactions. We swiftly adjusted our strategies and harnessed the opportunities presented by virtual platforms. We organized virtual events, webinars, and knowledge sessions, enabling us to reach a wider audience and expand our impact beyond geographical boundaries. By embracing the digital realm, we turned the challenges posed by the pandemic into opportunities for growth and engagement.

To succeed in an endeavor as nuanced and sensitive as gender diversity, it is crucial to have a passionate belief in the cause and, demonstrate action and outcomes. Winpe has stayed completely focused on delivering initiatives that support PEVC firms in achieving the objective of gender parity. It has focused on bringing together women investors and entrepreneurs into a cohesive and collaborative community that its members can leverage. This steadfast commitment to excellence has established Winpe as the single face of gender diversity for the PEVC industry. By consistently delivering impactful programs Winpe has established its credibility as a trusted and go-to platform for achieving gender balance in the private equity and venture capital landscape.

Juggling the responsibilities of entrepreneurship and motherhood can be demanding. I am fortunate to have a supportive husband who deeply values equity and equality. His belief in our shared responsibilities allows me to manage my multiple roles effectively and I have been able to dedicate the necessary time and energy to building Winpe.

6- Looking ahead, what do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges for Winpe in the next 5-10 years

Women form roughly 50% of the talent pool, with 38% enrolling in B-schools and 43% graduating in the STEM fields. Yet, the participation of women in the investment industry is low, with women forming just 20% of the workforce. Only 2.4% of women hold senior leadership positions as private equity and venture capital (PEVC) fund managers in firms. This percentage is significantly lower compared to other industries, such as manufacturing, where women occupy 25% of leadership positions, and real estate, where women hold 19% of leadership positions. The gap in the participation rate of women in the investment sector is glaring. It is indeed a missed opportunity to exclude their substantial pool of talent.

As gender diversity gains increasing awareness, there will be a rise in check-the-box options and terms like “gender-washing” and “diversity hires.” However, this presents an opportunity for Winpe to showcase its tangible solutions and set itself apart as a genuine advocate for gender diversity. By providing meaningful resources, fostering connections, and driving change within the industry, Winpe can demonstrate its commitment to creating lasting impact.

While gender diversity is still often treated as an “impact” or “ESG” mandate by most investors, Winpe aims to mainstream gender diversity within the investing industry. This challenge requires ongoing efforts to educate and engage with the best and biggest private equity and venture capital firms. By collaborating with these industry leaders, Winpe can work towards integrating gender diversity as a fundamental component of investment decision-making and corporate governance.

Most PE firms are still traditional when it comes to recruitment sources, desired profiles, and the path to partnership. They strongly believe that one has to rise up in the ranks from within the industry and usually are not keen on lateral hiring. VC firms have better representation of women and their challenge lies in supporting women at senior levels, including as funded entrepreneurs. Winpe and our member firms recognize these constraints and are working diligently on solutions that will start to change how firms hire, retain, diligence, invest and support the growth of women in the ecosystem. We will see positive results, but it might take some time. 

The increasing number of women coming together creates a powerful force for change. Winpe recognizes this opportunity and aims to deepen these networks, facilitating meaningful connections, and enabling collaboration. By uniting women in the industry, Winpe can create a strong movement that amplifies the voices and contributions of women, leading to increased gender diversity and representation.

Winpe is actively working on bringing more women onto the boards of private companies. This involves identifying talented women, providing them with the necessary training, knowledge, advice, and resources, and connecting them with progressive and well-governed companies that value and seek to build expertise and skills on their boards. This challenge requires continued efforts to bridge the gender gap in boardrooms and foster inclusive corporate governance practices.

Mohul Ghosh
Mohul Ghosh
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