The network effect is powerful and far-reaching. It allows people to learn from each other, share experiences and it is essential to professional development. “Simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success,” writes author and entrepreneur Michael Simmons. A 2015 report found that while both women and men agree that sponsorship from a senior mentor is crucial to career advancement, women’s access to senior leadership is limited. 63% of men have networks comprising all or mostly other men, while only 38% of women have all or mostly female networks. Since men are more likely to be in senior management positions, women are at a disadvantage. Women are actually more likely to seek support from an external advisor than men (7.9% vs. 4.5% percent), but the same study identified a lack of mentors as a key challenge for female professionals. The solution to this issue is to get more women into senior leadership roles, and to do that, networks will play a key role.
Here at Capria, we strongly believe in the power of networks. Over 20% of our advisors are female, which is more than double the percentage of female fund managers in the USA. The successful female investors and leaders who advise Capria are spread across a wide range of geographies and bring diverse backgrounds and experiences, from pioneering thought leadership in the field to managing millions of dollars in impact capital. Our advisors play an important role in the Accelerator experience. They lead sessions during the four-week Intensive, mentor teams, and attend the Capria Fund Managers Forum.
As someone starting my career in impact investing, I can personally attest to the power of strong female networks. When I started my first job after college at the Capria/Unitus Seed Fund office in Bangalore, I was a member of a team with a rare female majority. 70% of the team is made up of women. I worked closely with Radha Kizhannattam, who was recently named one of the Top Women of the Indian Startup World. Every day I had access to strong, successful women who were available to mentor, encourage and share their stories.
Supporting global outreach for female fund managers for Capria’s Cohort 2, I learned that women investors globally were just as excited to share their experiences and to support other women in the field.
“The investment world doesn’t just need more women investors. It needs successful women investors who look out [for] younger generations,” says Hannah Nguyen of The Omidyar Network in Singapore. Her advice for women looking to break into the impact business is, “Be proactive. Read relevant publications [to stay informed] and most importantly, talk to other women! They have been through the journey, … if they can … thrive …, why can’t you?”
Another great example of the power of female networks in impact investing in action is the recent launch of the Senegal Women’s Investment Club (WIC). The WIC brings together like-minded professional women and entrepreneurs who have the ability to invest in other women and seek to do so in a way that is transformational. These women bring their own assets, as well as their investment knowledge, entrepreneurial experience, management skills and personal journeys to create a women-led driver of economic development in the country.
“Many Senegalese women have smart business ideas or money to invest, but they face a complex set of challenges. There are women whose experiences may provide insight vis-à-vis the way forward. [To] amplify their experiences in financial markets … the answer lies in diverse, well-connected networks sharing their expertise. [The WIC] provides this,” says Madji Sock, President of WIC Senegal and Partner at Dalberg Global Development Advisors.
Networks are a key ingredient in professional success. In the short term, they help to create a productive and pleasant work environment. In the long run, they are often the foundation for career advancement and professional development. Creating an interconnected web of women in various roles and stages across impact investment ensures that everyone in the network has a mentor to turn to for advice.
If you are a woman interested in starting an impact fund, or know of other women who are, apply to Capria! As part of the Capria network, you will have access to tools, training, capital and a global advisor network. Our application period ends April 30th, so download the application and apply today.