At VentureXchange, we are strongly against any type of discrimination
In the startup and scaleup environment (companies designed for fast growth and for scaling globally), female-founded companies are rarely founded by venture capital funds, says Mirna Marovic managing Director, VentureXchage Ltd. (VX), and President, Croatian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (CVCA). Last year, female-founded startups and scaleups attracted only 0.9% of total venture capital funds in Europe.
- “Woman in business” is it still “exotic”, or has it become our everyday life?
I would argue that ‘Women in business’ are definitively more common. Both research and anecdotal experience show that companies and teams that embrace diversity are better performing than single-gender teams. Most companies know that, yet sometimes the elitists ‘boys clubs’ at the corporate leadership level deny recognising the valuable contributions of female colleagues. It is an unfortunate fact that women are discriminated against both in salary and promotion. The new sustainability trend is trying to change this. A female board and employment participation, and salary gap are important ESG KPIs that are now required in voluntary and mandatory reporting. As these metrics are measured, more systematic efforts are put in place to promote Women in business.
- Is the business world a man’s world? What are your experiences on the road to success?
My career spans over 27 years in the financial services industry. I started as a London-based investment banker, where I have worked for a decade. Back then, but also now, London-based investment banking was traditionally a ‘boys club’, with female managing directors being less than 1% of the total. Yet somehow, I never felt any discrimination of being a woman. On the contrary, I believe being a woman was, in my experience, a privilege and an advantage. Shortly after assuming a mid-level position on the structured finance team at BoA Merrill Lynch, I started to work as a strategic advisor for the Head of Debt Capital Markets. This division comprised 700 professionals at the time. My views and analysis were discussed among the top seven heads of departments. When I moved back to Croatia, I founded Croatian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (CVCA). Again, the private equity and venture capital industry is another example of traditionally male-dominated industries, and women in private markets are rare. For example, CVCA has 14 regular members – alternative funds managers, yet only two female partners in two venture funds (most fund management companies have only men as partners). Despite my propensity to choose industries dominated by ‘boys’ clubs’, I felt privileged to be a woman.
- There are still fewer women in leading positions compared to male colleagues, somewhere around 5%. What do you think is the reason for that, and how can that figure be changed in favour of women?
Unfortunately, the very unfavourable ratio of men to women at the leading positions is true in most industries. I would like to exemplify one industry – which is close to my professional engagement. In the startup and scaleup environment (companies designed for fast growth and for scaling globally), female-founded companies are rarely founded by venture capital funds. Last year, female-founded startups and scaleups attracted only 0.9% of total venture capital funds in Europe. There are several reasons why there is such a huge discrimination of venture capital flows against female-founded startups. First, venture capitalists are traditionally operating as ‘boys’ clubs’. Decision-makers and investors are usually men, and there is a strong bias that women cannot scale successfully and grow the company. Another bias is linked to women’s ability in the technology sector, traditionally linked to many startups sponsored by venture capital funds. Another discouraging trend is that mixed teams, with both women and men co-founders, are getting less founded in the proportion of the total (12.3% of total in 2022, compared to 14.9% in 2021, European startups and scaleups). However, evidence points out that investing in female-founders is much more profitable than investing in their male counterparts. One study found that for every dollar of investment raised, female-run startups generated 78 cents in revenue, whereas male-run startups generated only 31 cents.
Despite so much progress made of including women in the workforce, it seems they are strongly discriminated against. Gender is not the only discrimination in the workplace. Race, religion, any type of personal orientation, physical disabilities, all of that are discriminations. Sometimes, it seems that as a society, we are more successful in dealing with other types of workplace discrimination, and yet ignoring the one that is most obvious – discriminating against half of the population. Some positive developments are expected as part of the broader sustainability agenda focusing ESG KPIs. Inclusion and diversity are both starting to be seen as a competitive advantage, which is also founded in both research and anecdotal evidence. This is the game-changer and against all the biases that are still prevalent in the workplace, together with the ‘glass-celling’ for women’s career advancement.
- You are the founder and CEO of VentureXchange Ltd. How much attention do you at VentureXchange pay to each type of equality, including women?
At VentureXchange, we are strongly against any type of discrimination. We are 100% open to employing a person based on their skills and abilities, not on any other basis. Besides the non-discrimination policy, our values include a full meritocracy as we embrace, encourage and reward participation from every team member. Each person can express concerns or constructive criticism. The contribution is rewarded, and team members are incentivised based on performance.
- VentureXchange is also known as a company that pays special attention to the attitude towards employees, and mutual respect. How difficult is it to understand the needs of employees and what is essential for satisfaction and success at work?
We have open and constant communication. Through regular daily, weekly meetings and monthly 360 degrees meetings, every employee can express his or her opinion, career development plans and job satisfaction. We sponsor formal in-house and external continuing education programmes suited to the task and ambition of every employee. Embracing a continuing education, especially in sustainability, where I acquired 11 prestigious certificates, I believe I set up a role model for the rest of the team members. Most of them follow in my footsteps, taking externally certified courses.