Kea Clusters connects 100 women in investment

Last year, we launched Kea Clusters; a micro-networking scheme for women in private equity and investment.

Now, six months after our first meeting, we’re delighted to announce that Kea Clusters has connected more than 100 women in investment and it’s still growing.

Gender inequality is a serious problem across the sector, so we launched Kea Clusters to help women make the professional connections that will help them succeed. In an industry where fewer than 10% of senior professionals are female, gender equality is a fundamental issue which we all need to address.

Networking for women in investment

Kea Clusters are small, unsponsored networking events for women in investment. Each cluster has six to ten members who meet every eight weeks to share professional and personal advice and support. Our aim is to help women in investment make professional connections and establish a supportive network that will help them overcome gender inequality across the industry.

Our CEO, Caroline Sage started the scheme after research by Kea identified several ways in which women are being held back by male-dominated working and networking cultures; one being a lack of networking opportunities available to women because of the imbalance in the number of men and women in investment.

In industries where there is a disproportionate number of men to women, it can be hard for women to get the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Inherently, we form relationships with those that look like us, therefore any minority will have a disadvantage when it comes to a network and, as you become more senior in the PE industry, your network is as important as anything else. In industries like investment where there is still a propensity for male-centric, Alpha cultures to dominate, women who don’t share the same all-encompassing career goals can be put-off or feel unwelcome.

Kea Clusters is a very deliberate attempt to counter these issues: We get women to create environments where they can, and do, help each other; where they don’t have to conform to male dominated cultures and where they can share experiences so they don’t feel isolated in their struggles, especially in instances where that woman might be the only female in the team and doesn’t feel she has a voice.

When we started, we were just hoping for enough people to fill one group; I had no idea that we would get to a point where we have ten clusters with 100 people across them. It’s really great to see and I’m really proud of the support and connections that it’s providing to members."
Caroline Sage, CEO of Kea Consultants

Unlike other networking schemes, Kea Clusters are facilitated by the members themselves. This allows conversation to flow freely and honestly without the direct involvement of a headhunter or an external organiser. Currently, all clusters are located in the city of London, but there are plans for more clusters to be established in other financial centres in future.

Helping professional women connect

We know that people like to network in different ways, so Kea Clusters are varied and versatile, with different formats and structures to suit the way members prefer to connect:

We have seven members in the Kea Cluster I lead, with women at all stages of their careers from entry level up to senior roles. Clusters operate in different ways depending on members’ preferences; my own Cluster is quite structured, with questions circulated to the group before each meeting which we then use as a starting point for discussion around the differences between each of our own firms, and the challenges (or solutions!) we may have seen in our own individual experiences. It creates an intimate dialogue where we can genuinely support each other with considered advice which makes the most of everyone’s insights and experience. Our meetings are very rewarding and it’s a great way to engage with other female leaders, colleagues and role models and to build a broader network. We are trying to share the insights and data from these sessions and the broader community in order to help address some of the issues that women (and men) face in the investment industry.

It’s incredibly important that we address gender inequality in investment firms and this is a great opportunity for us to bring about change, and broaden the discussion – giving both individuals and the group the confidence to act as change agents whether within their own firms or the broader industry."
Katherine Ireland, Kea Cluster Facilitator & Principal at Palamon Capital Partners

If you’re interested in starting a Kea Cluster as a facilitator or if you’d like to join an existing group, you can contact Emma McManus by emailing [email protected]