Eileen Burbidge moved from Silicon Valley to London in 2004 to become one of Skype’s first employees. Fourteen years later, she is the co-founder and partner at Passion Capital, a London-based venture capital (VC) firm and a major force in the UK tech industry.
Only 27 percent of the VC firm workforce in the UK are women, and the number drops down to 13 percent for those in decision-making positions, according to The Telegraph.
Burbidge, who was born in the US to Chinese immigrant parents, said that she was so “conscious about being Chinese” that it did not occur to her that being a woman was also a level of disadvantage for her professional life. Nevertheless, all things considered, she thinks she benefited from being the only female in the lecture halls.
“Personally I have been very fortunate,” the groundbreaking venture capitalist said of her background. “I can think of times when I’ve benefited from being memorable as the Chinese-American woman who talks about tech.”
In an interview with The Telegraph, she said that too many mediocre men are part of the VC industry, while women still struggle to make a place for themselves.
“It’s not that women are asking for the bar to be lowered, We’re just asking for mediocre men to be pulled out. Not enough deserving and talented people get through so I’m all for mediocrity being stamped out.”
– Eileen Burbidge
It is since she started working in politics that Burbidge has really experienced what it means to be a woman in business. Her political roles include being the UK Treasury Special Envoy for FinTech and tech ambassador for the Mayor of London’s office.
“Compared to politics, tech is a utopia,” she commented. “Politics is so inherently, ridiculously sexist it’s unbelievable.”
Burbidge doesn’t believe in quotas, but she says that some kind of affirmative action might be required to at least spark a conversation about the gender gap in the VC industry. She alluded to the recent government-backed review into why 152 of the FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange) 350 companies have no women on their boards.
The reasons, which were described as “pitiful and patronising”, included women not wanting the hassle or pressure, not having the right credentials, and not fitting comfortably into the environment. New targets were released following the review that will require nearly half of all new board appointments in the next two years to be female.
“It’s really great we’re having that conversation and can see in the light of day how ridiculous the excuses were,” Burbidge said. “Does it bring about scrutiny? Yes. Is that a good thing? Yes.”