Random Ramblings is a quarterly series covering observations in the Canadian private capital industry captured by Darrell Pinto, CVCA Research Director. Random Ramblings is a roundup of industry insights covering research, diversity, events and more.
I have the privilege of living in a tolerant country and have lived in a few. I have the privilege of working in one of the most diverse cities in the world and I have worked in a few. I have the added privilege of working in an extremely diverse industry and I have worked in a few. I have the privilege of working in a diverse company and I have worked in a few. All this to say that when I hear the words “diversity and inclusion,” I see inspirational evidence of this all around me.
Whitney Rockley, the current chair of the CVCA and co-founder and Managing Partner at McRock Capital, has carved her career into the mountain of a largely male-dominated industry. Not one to stand alone, she has been instrumental in subsequently anchoring the CVCA’s industry efforts on promoting diversity and inclusion. “We are focused on attracting a more diverse talent pool to private capital through raising awareness and removing unconscious bias,” said Whitney Rockley. “We also believe in promoting more inclusive events and initiatives, so everyone feels like they belong and want to stay the course.”
She has recruited Sophie Gupta, a Principal at Yaletown Partners, to co-chair the CVCA Diversity Program. Sophie has a track record of service in empowering underprivileged women through her leadership on the boards of three organizations supporting women’s movements at the grassroots level and is leading an innovative collective impact initiative that seeks to address women’s empowerment in a more fundamental way. Sophie believes that “moving the needle on gender equality in the hopes of achieving meaningful, sustainable change, is feat that no single sector or entity can tackle alone”. Instead, she promotes the idea that “systems-level solutions require deeper integration and coordination of actors working together to apply their unique and specific skills, talents and advantages,” and submits that, “the organizations and movements on the ground, in Canada and around the world, that are driving incremental cultural, political and economic change, are catalysts for innovation and the very disrupters needed to achieve gender-equality.”
I also see evidence in our LP community. Sarah Pisonero, an Associate at Teralys Capital said “one of the reasons why I already feel at home despite having immigrated to Canada only three years ago is because I am given the opportunity to contribute to something much bigger than my own career, through my role as Diversity Lead at Teralys and through my commitment with the CVCA Diversity Program. Giving the best chances for everyone to succeed is essential for our industry to raise the bar and for our country to be able to compete in an increasingly competitive world. And I believe this won’t happen without a solid commitment to improving diversity & inclusion.” Senia Rapisarda, Managing Director at HarbourVest Partners Canada, is also an immigrant to Canada and has been a powerful voice on the CVCA Board. She said “being a good corporate citizen is good business practice. At HarbourVest, we believe in partnering with our communities and with our people to make an impact in the communities where we live and work. With Canada leading the way in diversity and gender equality, we have found fertile ground work with our Canadian managers and companies on these important issues and are looking forward to seeing the impact.”
Moreover, the investee companies that have received funding from our GPs span a wide range of industries, some traditional and many that are cutting edge in terms of how they could revolutionize the world’s concept of diversity and inclusion. One of these is Ottawa-based eSight which makes glasses that enables legally blind people to see. Yvonne Felix, a blind visual artist who benefited from this remarkable technology said “communication is what creates the platform for inclusion. Every time I traveled somewhere new, even as simple as a new doctor’s office, it felt like entering an entirely new country having to learn a new language and culture all over again. The use of eSight technology gives me access to a visual world which now includes nonverbal communication, and I have discovered hundreds of new ways to communicate. It’s allowed me to feel included in a level playing field where I can communicate my thoughts and ideas and develop friendships in a predominantly sighted world.”
And finally, the place where I work. Since I love data, I look at my colleagues at the CVCA team through the prism of diversity variables and am grateful for the different perspectives and range of strengths they each bring to the table. Through the prism of age, I am the oldest, and twice the age of my youngest colleague. Viewed through a gender filter, there is almost a 50/50 spilt. On the introversion/extraversion spectrum, we’ve had some surprising conversations on where we each sit. Three out of the eleven are immigrants. There is only one homogenous facet on this team that has zero diversity—a focused and collaborative dedication to making a positive difference in our industry!
That all being said, there’s lots more to be done on continuing to move the needle on diversity and inclusion in our industry and society. Under Whitney’s leadership, we are accelerating the pace of that journey!