Green angel investment and the opportunity for female investors


Green Angel Syndicate Ltd

10 April 2018

Green angel investment and the opportunity for female investors

Authored by Caroline Halliday, Green Angel Syndicate

Research carried out by the University of Glasgow a few years ago found there had been encouraging growth in the proportion of women business angels, rising from 3% in 2008 to 12% in 2014. Growth I would like to see more of, speaking as one of the 12%. As a business angel with a portfolio of investments in both private and social enterprise companies, I was interviewed as part of the survey, and I was reminded that it is only my gender that makes me part of a minority in the business angel community. In most other ways my background fits the standard profile of an angel investor, being educated to degree level (as 76% of angels are) and having gained experience in the financial services sector – again, a common unifying factor for angel investors.

It could be argued that the two indicators are linked: that there are fewer women business angels because there are fewer women gaining experience in financial services (a report from the Financial Times found that women occupied 25.5 % of senior financial services roles in 2016). Yet there are also many other factors at play: women’s access to networks, women’s level of disposable income (which is necessary to be a higher risk investor) and fewer women entrepreneurs.

My own background is in Chemical Engineering, another industry where women are hugely under-represented (I quickly had to learn not to be intimidated by a room full of men!), working for British Gas and BP, before becoming a derivatives and crude oil trader with BP. With a family, I changed careers, I completed a Masters in Environmental Management and joined The Scottish Environment Protection Agency, focusing on projects relating to resource efficiency and waste management and working my way up to operations management level. I then joined the National Trust for Scotland, leading programmes to reduce waste and energy consumption within its significant portfolio of properties. So it was a natural step to become a green angel, using my technical, commercial and environmental experience and supporting innovations which result in more efficient and sustainable use of global resources.

Indeed I believe that specifically ‘green’ angel investment presents a particular opportunity to grow the 12% statistic and to attract more women.  Research from Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing reveals that 84% of women and 67% of men are interested in sustainable investing, which tells us that women are 25% more interested in sustainable investment than men.  

Many female investors like myself need to be motivated to make these earlier investments by the companies and people in whom we invest and to be convinced that our investments might result in a health or environmental benefit. In addition, I have also found the culture within the Green Angel Syndicate, and the other syndicates in which I am a member, to be particularly encouraging and supportive of me as a woman and the perspective I offer. This is key for creating environments where women feel welcome and confident to ask questions of entrepreneurs (even the basic ones), as it’s a known fact that people don’t invest if they haven’t had their questions answered.

It’s then a win-win for the entire sector because the male members of investor syndicates also benefit from the increased diversity and experience that women can offer. Also, having more women business angels will encourage more women entrepreneurs to come forward. The numbers within a syndicate can be self-propagating. If we could encourage a few more women into each investor environment, helping and supporting each other, it could be a catalyst for change.

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