Stop ‘men in gilets’ making all the decisions, says Starling’s Anne Boden – and back


Passionate: Starling founder Anne Boden is leading a new Government-backed taskforce to boost investment

Passionate: Starling founder Anne Boden is leading a new Government-backed taskforce to boost investment

Starling founder Anne Boden has called time on ‘men in gilets’ dominating investment as she looks to push more cash towards female founders.

The Welsh entrepreneur, who set up the online bank in 2014, said women remain at a ‘huge disadvantage’ because ‘people invest in people who look and sound like themselves’.

Launching a Government-backed taskforce to get more funding into female-led companies, Boden, 64, told the Mail: ‘I passionately believe that it is not about fixing the women but fixing the system.’

As it stands, women founders receive just 2 per cent of all venture capital funding in the UK.

Venture capital is one of the main ways that entrepreneurs can raise money for early-stage businesses. The industry generally invests in ideas that they see as high growth.

And Boden largely blames this gender gap on the systemic issues that lurk beneath the surface.

Drawing on her own experience of raising money for Starling, Boden said: ‘I know very well that when I walked into a room, I would be faced with a row of men in their 30s wearing their gilets and all looking and sounding the same.

‘I had a huge disadvantage. People invest in people who look and sound like themselves.’

She said the taskforce – where she is chairman – hopes to ‘change that dynamic’. The recommendations include encouraging investment firms to collect and publish data about their own gender balance as ‘female investment professionals are more likely to back female founded and led businesses’.

Research from the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association has found that just 11 pc of senior investment roles are held by women and 13 per cent of firms lack a single woman in their investing teams.

Boden, who stepped down as Starling chief executive last June but still has a near-5 per cent stake and a seat on the board, took over 300 meetings before she was able to raise capital.

‘Women have plenty of confidence, what they don’t have is investment,’ she said.

Yet the report does not implement compulsory targets for investment firms to meet – meaning that their ambitions could land on deaf ears.

Boden argues that the taskforce needs to toe a sensitive line to not put off foreign investors, who may feel alienated by strict quotas.

She said: ‘Generally, I believe in hard targets. But with this issue, we must be incredibly careful that we continue to bring in external investment into the UK.

‘If we have hard targets, funding will just go to another country rather than the UK.’

The taskforce emphasises that it is not just female founders that will feel the benefits of a more equal playing field.

The Rose Review – a separate state-backed initiative – found that up to £250billion could be added to the economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men.

The Government is also planning to conduct ongoing research into how funding works at women-led high-growth companies. The taskforce was created in 2022 by Liz Truss when she was minister for women and equalities. 

Members also include Sam Smith, founder and former chief executive of FinnCap, a brokerage firm, and June Angelides, an investor at Samos, a venture capital investor.





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