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Evi Gkini, Head of Business Development & Project Management at LPEA, discusses diversity and inclusion trends in the PE/VC world, key initiatives offered by the association, and what she finds most rewarding about her role.

With over 540 members, including corporate members, private equity firms, investors, family offices, and service providers, LPEA is an association committed to advancing the interests of the Luxembourg private equity and venture capital sectors. Evi Gkini, who wears three hats as Head of Business Development & Project Management, HR Club Coordinator, and Private Equity for Women Club Coordinator, shares insights from her multifaceted role and experience on the value of a supporting network, and diversity and inclusion in the industry.

Give me a brief description of your background and how you started working with LPEA?

I am originally from Greece and moved to Luxembourg almost five years ago. I used to work at an exclusive representative of Philip Morris International, and at some point, I was looking for better opportunities, so I thought why not Luxembourg. I enrolled in the entrepreneurship and innovation masters programme at the University of Luxembourg, and in one of the courses, our current CEO, who was then the strategy director of the LPEA, came to give a speech.

He spoke about the LPEA, what they do and what they represent. And I said, 'this is a nice opportunity'. I sent him my CV on LinkedIn as I had a few years of experience, and I suggested that we have a quick talk and see if we can work together. This is how I started working at the LPEA.

And now you are the Head of Business Development & Project Management at LPEA. Tell me about your role.

I’ve held this role for one year now and my main responsibility is to drive the association's growth by identifying new business opportunities and expanding the community. It involves strategic planning, project management and also fostering partnerships that align with our mission to support and facilitate the private equity and venture capital ecosystem here in Luxembourg.

My role also focuses on engaging with our members, understanding their needs, and making sure that LPEA delivers value through its different activities, which includes initiatives to promote Luxembourg as a leading hub for private equity and alternative investments.

In your experience within the private equity and venture capital sector, why do you believe diversity is crucial at the leadership and decision-making levels?

I think that diverse leadership brings a plethora of perspectives, fosters innovation, and helps to take better decisions. It is not about ticking a box. A study by BCG and Cambridge Associates clearly shows that private equity and venture capital firms that are mainly owned by women, or people of colour, may have an edge because they often have access to a wider range of investment opportunities as they tend to invest in a more diverse set of portfolios.

I think that in our sector and in every sector and business in the modern world, having different viewpoints is quite essential. Because it helps you to make better decisions and it is crucial for any long-term business strategy success and helps in dealing with challenges.”

LPEA has established a group called the Private Equity for Women Group since 2019, and with this group, we try to drive different initiatives that empower women.

As the Private Equity 4 Women Club Coordinator, what unique challenges and opportunities do women still face in this sector that make such a community essential?

From the ongoing discussions and insights in the sector, a community that represents and promotes diversity and inclusion is really needed. The feedback from our members indicates that there are still challenges in achieving gender parity, especially at the leadership and decision-making levels - so the problems still exist. Also, women often struggle with self-confidence, and may not always advocate for their career evolution as strongly as they should, or like men do.

I think that this community is crucial for addressing those challenges by providing a supportive network where women can share their experiences, access mentorship, and increase their visibility within the industry. And also for us, it's important through this community to create opportunities for dialogue, share success stories, and highlight the contribution of women in our sector.

This is a way that we can inspire and empower our members through networking, offer a platform for women to discuss their concerns and challenges, what they have achieved so far, and how they have achieved it. The goal of the community is not only to address current challenges, but also to unlock the full potential of diversity as a driver of innovation, growth, and resilience for the sector.

In your role as HR Club Coordinator, you've also led HR webinars, discussion panels, and even organised the first dedicated job fair in the PE/VC sector. How do these initiatives contribute to fostering a more inclusive and diverse environment?

This initiative started a few years ago during the pandemic and post-covid era when we saw an increased need for talent in Luxembourg. So, that was a driver for us to start those different initiatives.

At the beginning, we created a dedicated HR Club in order to provide a platform for the different stakeholders to discuss trends and share best practices and potential challenges.

By bringing together these different players, we wanted to foster a community that values diversity and inclusion. And at the same time, we did some other initiatives like some webinars and discussion panels, where we also tried to raise awareness about our sector, the size of the market, and the importance of the market for Luxembourg, especially for people that didn't have an image of Luxembourg yet. We tried to create a more accurate image and underline the local opportunities in our industry.

The job fair we organised aimed to open doors to a more diverse pool of candidates. We invited people and students from across Europe, we also tried to visit different European universities, to promote our sector and give even more visibility to Luxembourg.


How can women stand out in the PE/VC industry?

For women to stand out, especially in the sector in Luxembourg, they should focus on building a strong network. Maybe also seeking out mentors because I think it helps a lot to listen to those who have achieved whatever you would like to achieve as well.

They need to keep learning in order to stay ahead of industry trends. It's also important that they advocate for themselves, raise their voice, take credit for their achievements, and seek opportunities that can challenge and grow their capabilities. In general, I would say that women should be bold, embrace opportunities and also never underestimate the value of a supportive community.

What advice would you give to those looking to start or advance their careers in this field?

We have several initiatives on recruitment in private equity. Everything is possible as far as you have access to a network and training opportunities, and Luxembourg offers a lot of these.

We have our internal Academy at the LPEA, the House of Training, academies and training in companies, and many others.

What do you find most rewarding about your roles at LPEA, particularly your responsibilities to support women in the private equity and venture capital sector?

The most rewarding part is seeing tangible progress in the industry, whether it's through increased awareness about diversity and inclusion, more women taking on leadership roles, or also the success stories that emerge from our other initiatives like the job fairs, for example.

I was in the city centre a few months back when someone approached me and said, 'I relocated to Luxembourg because of your job fair'. This is quite rewarding on its own.

But in general, knowing that our efforts to contribute and attract more new talents and create a more inclusive and equitable environment where women can learn from each other, support each other, thrive and also reach their full potential, is really fulfilling.


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