On the 6th of March 2024, Parkwalk and IP Group’s Women’s Networking Group hosted a panel discussion at their offices to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), with the IWD 2024 theme of ‘inspire inclusion’, and the next generation of female Non-Executive Directors and Board members.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2024 is inspire inclusion, so that we can collectively forge a more inclusive world for women. At Parkwalk and IP Group we chose to explore this theme in female representation across our portfolio companies and boards. Female representation on company boards has been a topic of discussion for several years. In 2021, the business-led FTSE Women Leaders Review set the FTSE350 a 40% target for women on boards and leadership teams by 2025. In April 2022, the Financial Conduct Authority officially backed the target, aiming for broader diversity targets in the UK.

“Improving boardroom diversity has become a focus for many policymakers and investors who say a broader range of experience improves decision-making and corporate culture.” Reuters, 2023.

Here at Parkwalk, we are proud to support such amazing and diverse companies, which are not just changing the course of science and tech but also supporting women in our portfolio. Within the Parkwalk portfolio, 57% of companies have a female Board member, and although this is above the targeted 40%, we are constantly striving to do better and encourage more female talent to reach the top.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, the Parkwalk and IP Group’s Women’s Networking Group hosted a panel: “Women on Boards: Inspiring Inclusion”, where four inspirational women who sit on boards within and around our portfolio companies, were asked several questions on life as a Non-Executive Director (NED).

The panel consisted of:

  • Janet Collyer – NED and Chair of Quantum Dice
  • Cassie Doherty – Investment Director at Parkwalk and NED for several portfolio companies, including MoA Technology and more
  • Ingeborg Dybdal Oie – NED of Intelligent Ultrasound
  • Alison Fielding – NED, Trustee and former COO of IP Group plc

The host was IP Group’s Talent Partner and Head of IP Exec, Stuart Thompson, and he asked several questions of the panellists about the realities of life as a Non-Executive Board Director, Female Board Director Challenges, the importance of board diversity and how to become a non-Executive Board Director. The session was full of interesting debate and advice for the audience.

Around the topic of being ‘the only female board member vs. being on a board with other women’, Ingeborg Dybdal Oie, NED of Intelligent Ultrasound, said that “diversity is there to bring different ideas. You would not have diversity if you brought five similar women together on a board. I think this will evolve, and thanks to where we are now, the diversity lens will broaden. That is the difference. It’s not about if you are one or many; it’s about whether there is a diverse set of opinions around the table.”

When asked ‘What are the main points of advice you’d give to someone who wants to become an NED?’ Janet Collyer, who is an NED of four Boards and UK Advisory Panel member, said: “It doesn’t matter where you are (it doesn’t have to be at work), but talk to your manager about becoming an NED. Saying that you want to do it is key, and you’ll be amazed at how many people will offer their guidance.”

Cassie Doherty, Investment Director at Parkwalk and NED for several portfolio companies also added: “Get as much exposure as possible, whether that be observing more or, if you’re in a management role, presenting to the board so that you can understand how they operate.”

As a final comment: Alison Fielding, NED, Trustee and former COO of IP Group plc, said: “Be the best you can be in your current position and see what you’re passionate about. If something you’d like to do comes up, give it a go.”

Thank you to all of our panellists and thank you to the Women’s Networking Group for hosting such an informative and thought-provoking session.  Here’s to continuing to break down gender inequality worldwide and to #InspireInclusion in 2024 and beyond.