Taking the lead - celebrating women at the top

Michelle's story

The female lead - celebrating women at the top

Breaking the bias is this year’s theme for International Women’s Day. With a 50:50 male-female split on our executive leadership team, and above-average female representation in leadership roles, we’re celebrating the powerful women who are setting the tone for our continued growth.

"The most common misconception about leadership is that you need to know everything. But it’s about delegation, about facilitating new ideas and approaches. You’re there to empower your colleagues and to evolve with the job as you go."

Michelle Kinnaird, Head of Investment Management

Michelle's story

“When I started here, we were a small team of around 12 people, and we’ve grown into something with immense impact. We’ve been patient but also forward thinking, so-much-so that to date we’ve helped secure over £2 billion through our deals and portfolio, which currently sits at £400 million and around 350 companies, all at different stages. We’ve also been pioneers in the sense that we were looking at investment in the renewable energy industries a decade ago, and things have obviously advanced so much since then.

A lot of this is down to building an ecosystem that supports all entrepreneurs, from different backgrounds. This diversity attracts varied investors, which in turn boosts the productivity of Scotland’s economy – breaking the bias is important. But it’s also crucial to focus on equality in general, and make sure to avoid undue bias – being a woman  shouldn’t be a competitive advantage, the person you hire should be the one that’s best for the job. 

Neutrality in business development 

At the beginning of my career, when I was in consultancy, it wasn’t like this - a lot of the biggest deals were done on the golf course by an older generation. I tried golf lessons - that didn’t go well. So, when I was in a position of leadership, I wanted to create alternative options that would bring out a neutrality to how we go about business development. 

For a woman to be in the position I’m in, maybe 20 or 30 years ago, we’d be looking at what she’d given up, what she’d compromised – we might comment that she was very ‘hard-nosed’. I think there do have to be compromises, but now they’re handled better. The need for flexibility is something I’ve found women apologise for a lot, but one of the very few advantages of the pandemic was that it brought about more equality for those with children at home – we saw a lot of secondary care givers play a more active role which allows there to be more balance.  

Championing female-led business

Since 2019, we’ve seen real progress in female-led start-ups. We’ve always had excellent research and development projects coming out of universities that have women behind them, but I think now we’re seeing the confidence to take the work to the next stage of commercialisation and keeping the foot on the gas as these women build a support mechanism around their projects. Cytochroma is one such project leading stem cell drug research from Scotland with Dr Kate Cameron at the helm. The life sciences have often been very male dominated so having role models like Dr Kate is very exciting.

Likewise, we’re seeing more women leading tech companies – take Appointedd, for example. The online booking software company was started by its CEO Leah Hutcheson in 2011 and now operates in 23 companies. Another is MIME Technologies Ltd, led by Anne Roberts. Ranked 9th in the Scotland Tech 50, the company’s product ‘Aiber’ is a first-response medical kit that can be used by non-medical professionals where there’s no access to hospitals – while on board a plane, for example. Having these innovators as examples, as educators, will inspire more women – and young girls – to hopefully disregard gender stereotypes in their field of choice. 

Supporting people who give back

And that’s what I look on as our biggest achievement – we'll be able to say we’ve worked on some exciting deals and helped a huge variety of people to reach their potential. I like to think of it as recycling – we boost entrepreneurs and companies who give back once they’ve achieved success.

It doesn’t need to be money, it can be time and mentorship which then inspires the next wave of change. It’s great, because now being an entrepreneur is held in the same esteem as being a doctor or a lawyer – we're getting people to look at what they’re doing long term, what they’re putting out there, and that’s inspiring."

Get to know more of our inspiring female leaders

Linda Murray, Director of Strategy

Why breaking bias boosts greater innovation and ambition.

Alyson-Russell Stevenson, Head of Marketing and Engagement

How the pandemic has highlighted the need for flexible working.

Elaine Morrison, Interim Director of Place

Finding your voice and trusting your instincts.

Ana Gallardo, Team Leader, Entrepreneurial Development

Start-ups, social enterprises and how women are making a difference.

Encourage diversity in your workplace

Be empowered to make your workplace more innovative, productive and profitable by reading our Team Optimisation and Workplace Innovation guidance. You can also use the Fair Work Employer Support Tool to assess your own company's practices. 

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