Ben Brabyn

Ben Brabyn is a business development and ecosystem expert who has recently launched the GenieShares campaign, highlighting entrepreneurs who are giving equity away to members of the public, and he’s so far persuaded some of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs to pledge equity worth several million pounds.

He is former Head of Level39, Europe’s leading fintech and cybersecurity cluster based in London. He welcomed over 200 companies from more than 50 countries.

Prior to leading Level39, Ben Brabyn consulted to the UK Government, running UK Trade & Investment’s Venture Capital Unit and introducing overseas investors to UK companies. Earlier in his career he served as an officer in the Royal Marines Commandos, as an analyst with JP Morgan and as founder of an online payments business which he founded, built and sold between 2001 and 2010.

He has an MA in Philosophy and English Literature from Edinburgh University and an MBA from Warwick Business School in the UK.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign?

I am really keen to see and support female entrepreneurs showing inspirational leadership in and beyond the Covid19 crisis. At a time when businesses are increasingly challenged to show that they support keyworkers, volunteers and carers (all disproportionately women) – as well as customers, investors and employees – founders like Kiran Bhagotra and Gia Mills, who show that their company supports communities, will set the tone and give the example to businesses during the recovery.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

I have been really inspired by the work done by Professor Laura Huang at Harvard Business School. Her research on the cumulative effects of biases in investor behaviour – and the terrible effect this has for female entrepreneurs – is a rebuke and challenge to a system in which only one or two percent of investment goes to women-led startups. Clearly half the population is wildly underfunded. Men and women must do more to mitigate these effects and create conditions where talent thrives to its fullest potential.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

It seems best for men to approach this conversation with the ear-to-mouth ratio guiding their contributions. While I am curious and keen to help, I also recognise that I’m only aware of some of the issues affecting gender equality. In creating GenieShares, I’ve sought to create a platform in which the authentic voices of female entrepreneurs and leaders can be clearly heard, and their inspiring example followed.

Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?

I don’t think I can speak for other men’s feelings about this. Overall I think that the quality of the gender equality debate is improving, though the improvement isn’t evenly distributed. This is another reason why I think it’s especially powerful for those women who are able to provide an example to do so, and I hope that the GenieShares community amplifies their impact when they do.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

Honey converts more than vinegar, and it is especially powerful in persuading those who do not yet believe in gender equality  when women demonstrate the broad social impact of what they are doing as entrepreneurs. Rather than repeating the arguments in favour of gender equality, leaders like Kiran Bhagotra are pledging to share the results of their successes so that we can all feel we have an interest in helping her business to thrive!

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

I am cautious of the mentor/mentee description. I believe I have helped a number of women entrepreneurs over the last few years, and I know that I have gained from the experience too. I am particularly keen to help female entrepreneurs benefit from some of the networking behaviours and dynamics which often and traditionally have favoured men.

Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?

It is well documented that women and men apply different criteria when considering their qualification for a role, but a much less observed and more punishing difference is the typical difference between the professional networks of men and women. Some interesting work on this has been done by Ronald S Burt. In summary, women often develop networks with a higher degree of closure while men on average create a higher degree of brokerage. This systematically reduces the negotiating power and the centrality of women on average, and directly contributes both to the gender pay gap and the lack of career opportunities often faced by women returning to the workforce. One of our objectives with GenieShares is to systematically extend the network reach of participating entrepreneurs to help mitigate this effect.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of HeForShe interviews, including Christian Edelmann, George Brasher, Stephen Mercer and many more. You can read about all the amazing men championing gender equality here.