In today’s male dominated VC ecosystem, Bala C Deshpande, Founder Partner at MegaDelta Capital, is one the inspiring faces for women eyeing at stepping into the world of VCs. She has over 23 years of professional experience, including 14 years of experience in the private equity space. Deshpande was featured in the Most Influential Women 2023 list of BW Businessworld. Here are some of the excerpts from our interaction with her:
At a time when several reports are suggesting that gender parity in India has taken a turn for the worse, Deshpande told BW Businessworld that she believes that the employment market is complex in India which makes it hard for us to deduce whether this trend is a cause of concern or not. She says, “We need to also measure changes in women participation in rural areas, in informal sectors, women who have taken up advisory/ consultancy roles or even women becoming entrepreneurs.”
Deshpande adds, “In my own experience, I have seen a lot of women entering the business world even if it is in the form of self-owned/ home-owned businesses in past few years, especially after the pandemic. So even if anecdotal, I think women are not quitting but are actually choosing more empowered roles in life.”
When asked what advice she has for decision-makers and industry captains on how to increase the representation of women in workforce and senior leadership positions, Deshpande said, “The answer lies in analysing the underlying reasons for women dropping out. I think that though in theory companies have a stated equal employment policy, fair policies relating to maternity leave, transferability etc, in practical terms the policies turn out to be either inflexible or unfair. For instance, employees may enjoy good maternity benefits but run the risk of being left out for increments or promotion because the woman was away on leave.”
Discussing the role of gender in the VC industry, Deshpande says, “The VC industry can potentially be the most gender agnostic industry as compared to all other industries. I say this because capital and knowledge/ perspective are the building blocks of this industry, and both are equally accessible to either of the genders.”
“The fact that it is male dominated today is an accident of history rather an outcome of design. I think it is generally a difficult industry to break into for anyone, not necessarily more for women. This will change when India has deeper and larger pools of LP capital making it easier for new funds to come into existence,” she adds.
Recalling the challenges she has faced as a woman, Deshpande says, “The largest challenge faced by women continues to be of wrong perception - misplaced or hastily arrived at perceptions about character, competence, behavioural patterns etc.” She believes that the reason behind such the persistence of such problems include stereotyping, lack of familiarity of dealing with women in the workplace, cultural environments etc.
Despite all this, Deshpande is proud that today’s women are themselves addressing these issues effectively. “Kudos to women of today for believing in themselves and for staying committed to the gender parity cause,” she says. She believes that while we have come a long way, “we still need to work on building organisational cultures that allow women to deliver to their fullest potential.”