women in Private Equity - Holland Capital

In a world where glass ceilings still exist, two ambitious women in Private Equity are defying the odds and changing the face of Finance. Their journeys are inspiring grit, determination, and an unwavering ambition that propels them to thrive in a male-dominated world. In this exclusive double interview, Floor Hofstra (26) and Marijn Silvis (33) delve into their career choices, challenges, and valuable insights that every aspiring woman in finance should hear. 

Two ambitious women at different career stages

Floor holds two Bachelor’s and two Master’s (😯) and had quite an alternative path towards the financial sector. Initially wanting to pursue a career in the healthcare industry, she later discovered how much more business and finance can offer her. With her dual studies being a perfect blend between healthcare, business, and finance, she found a job to suit her specialisations. She is now an Investment Analyst at Holland Capital, in the department focusing on investments in the healthcare sector. 

Marijn had a more direct path towards entering finance. She knew she wanted to do something involving numbers ever since she was still in middle school! She studied business and economics, followed by a Master’s in finance. Despite her evident love for crunching numbers, she had a hard time finding out what opportunities there are for her out there. Eventually, through trial and error, she discovered that Private Equity fits her best – after experiencing working in M&A-related functions. She is now an Investment Manager at Holland Capital, a long-standing Private Equity firm striving for greater gender diversity and setting a positive example in the PE landscape with 30% women in their team!

Why finance? And why Private Equity specifically?

Floor: I’ve always been interested in the healthcare sector and motivated to work in this field because of its significant social impact and the complexity it entails. But during my practical experience, I quickly realized that to deliver high-quality care, finance is also crucial, and an entrepreneurial approach can optimize the healthcare sector. 

In my opinion, Private Equity can play a leading role in achieving this, making it the ideal environment for me to combine these two worlds. I can contribute my skills and competencies in the healthcare sector to the successful development of companies in the PE/healthcare industry.”

Marijn: “I wanted to be a bit more involved with the company itself. Both in Financial Due Diligence and Leveraged Finance, you are working on a project-by-project basis, working on cases on a more high-over level involving the financing of a company or writing a report about a company, to then move on to the next project.

And I always felt I wanted to be a little bit closer with the people that actually work in the company, work with them together towards the future, instead of just being briefly involved for a couple of months and then going to the next one.”

Feeling inspired? Join the New Girls’ Network:

The start of their journey towards a Private Equity career

While Marijn always sort of knew in the back of her mind that her career will involve working with numbers, Floor initially thought she would be working in the healthcare sector. 

Floor: “I never expected to go into finance. In high school, I wanted to become a dentist. But then, during my Bachelor’s in Business Administration, I started enjoying my finance courses and I became quite good at it. This is why I also decided on the master’s in Finance and Investments, alongside my master’s in Healthcare Management.

By studying it, I discovered the significant role that finance plays in society. And especially after my course in Private Equity, I was sure I wanted to break into finance. I like that it requires a lot of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, but at the same time, I like that you can have a lot of impact in shaping businesses.”

Marijn: “I think I always knew that this was the thing I was most interested in – ever since I was in middle school, it has been quite obvious that I was going to do something related to numbers someday. I took economics courses in high school, and then I just knew I wanted to continue studying something related to economics – hence my choice for the Business and Economics bachelor.

After my studies, my first internship was for an accountancy firm. So numbers have always been a big theme. And I think when I started working, I realised that working with numbers only is a bit limited. That’s why throughout my career path, I moved a bit from the financial, analytical side towards something broader like Private Equity.”

But how did they break into finance?

For Floor, breaking into finance was mainly thanks to building her network. 

“I went to many events, met and talked to many people, both students and professionals. And then, through Female x Finance, I got help with sending my resume and meeting Private Equity companies. This eventually led to my first internship in Private Equity, at Gimv.”

Even though it was just a few years before Floor started her career, Marijn had a different experience. Back then, you had to discover the sector on your own. There were fewer events and fewer networking opportunities where you could gather information.

“When I first started looking for internships, I didn’t have a clue what my opportunities could be. So I started working with an accountant because I thought that was the only thing that sounded a bit familiar with what I studied. But I soon realized that it was not for me. For me, it was about trial and error – rather than being fully informed beforehand. 

I got quite lucky eventually because I got referred to another department by the company where I did my accounting internship. That was the first time I discovered that the dynamics of the deal-making world suited me a lot more.”

When you’re a woman, a finance career comes with challenges

Especially when you’re just starting, choice stress can be an issue. Floor mentioned that “the big question I always had in my head was: am I making the best decision? What is the best decision?”

“A big lesson I learned there was to trust your gut feeling. Do what feels right and go where you can learn the most. This will probably make you the happiest. Don’t just focus on the ultimate goal you have in your mind, but enjoy the journey towards it as well.”

For Marijn, the obstacle was different. It was not the multitude of choices and opportunities, but rather her experience as one of the only women in the finance teams she was part of. 

“At the start of my career, I felt like I had to prove myself a lot more than my male colleagues. My experience showed me that people automatically think that men can work harder, are tougher and can put up with the pressure better than women.”

And as a woman in the financial sector, you are often the outsider. But for Marijn, that didn’t matter. “I’ve never been too focused on the fact that I’m a woman in finance and that I work with a lot of men. I’m so interested in the sector and the work, but when other people look at you differently because you’re a woman, then it puts extra pressure to work harder and prove yourself more.”

Progress has been made, of course: “It helps that there are a lot more women nowadays than 10 years ago. It’s a lot better now, but we’re not fully there yet.“

Advice you wouldn’t want to miss out on

We asked these two empowering women to give each other advice for their careers. And we bet you can already imagine how valuable it was for two women working together to offer their best pieces of advice. Because in the end, Marijn and Floor are representing something a lot bigger than themselves: women empowering women to have the career and opportunities that they desire.

Being more experienced, Marijn advised Floor to keep her eyes on the ball. Focus on what’s important, focus on yourself. It’s easy to get distracted or start comparing yourself to your peers and looking at what someone else can do better.

Based on my early years, I think it’s most important that you keep persisting in doing what you love. You might not reach your ultimate goal as fast as you want to, but you will get there eventually. Just keep focusing on your true self and your core capabilities – because in your more senior years, this authenticity will shine through.”

We think that Floor has equally valuable advice to offer Marijn, even if she started her career later. 

“Be proud of what you’ve already achieved. Stay who you are, because where you are now is also thanks to your uniqueness and strengths. Another important thing is to just have fun every day and keep enjoying our work as Private Equity professionals!”

Floor and Marijn are just two among the countless women who are carving their unique paths in the financial sector. Their stories remind us that ambition knows no boundaries. So, to all the women aspiring to start their career in finance, embrace your potential, trust your gut feeling, and stay true to yourself! Because when women embrace the opportunity to go after the career they desire, everyone benefits.

Are you intrigued by a career in Private Equity?