The Gender Index Strategic Advisory Board

The Gender Index is steered by a Strategic Advisory Board composed of UK business and academic leaders who champion gender equality and especially female entrepreneurship.

Jill Pay

Jill Pay


Jill is a retired official of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. She was Serjeant at Arms in the House of Commons and was the first woman to hold this position in 600 years.

Her appointment was unusual in that her predecessors all came from a military background. She retired on 31 January 2012.

Since leaving Parliament, Jill has held a number of senior roles for organisations including the children’s literacy charity Coram Beanstalk, the women’s business network Savvitas Global and the Women and Enterprise All Party Parliamentary Group chaired by Craig Tracey MP. She is a major driving force behind the acceleration and empowerment of female entrepreneurship internationally.

Jill is a Non-executive Director of mnAI.

  • Julie Baker

    Julie Baker

    Julie Baker is Head of Enterprise and Climate Engagement and Partnerships at NatWest, working with external strategic partners from both the Private and Public Sector who are valued supporters of entrepreneurs in the UK. Julie’s primary focus is to help those that have traditionally faced the highest barriers to entry including ’Female Founders’, and’ Ethnic Minority Business’ communities.

    With a 40-year career in the world of Banking Julie has gained significant knowledge from a variety of leadership roles. Julie presently has responsibility for the Bank’s multi award winning Women in Business program and the Rose Review intervention activity on behalf of Alison Rose.

  • Simon Bumfrey

    Simon Bumfrey

    Simon Bumfrey is head of relationship banking for SVB UK Europe. He is responsible for relationship management teams focused on fast growth technology and life sciences businesses, from early-stage, venture capital–backed companies, to those that are publicly listed and private equity–owned. Simon has spent more than 35 years working in commercial banking, with the last 24 years focused on the technology, media and telecommunication sectors.

    Before joining SVB in 2017, he led teams at Barclays Bank, Bank of Ireland and Lloyds Banking Group. While at Barclays, he expanded his expertise into global markets by managing credit risk for clients in Africa, the Caribbean and Middle East.

  • Helen Burnell

    Helen Burnell

    Helen is a Partner in Shoosmiths’ corporate department specialising in venture capital, growth capital and infrastructure investments. Helen advises both institutions and companies/founders on start-up through funding rounds and M&A. She works with a variety of clients but increasingly specialises helping investors and companies on capital fund raisings and advises the likes of Gresham House, Octopus Ventures, Triple Point, Pentech, QBN and Maven Capital Partners.

    Helen leads Shoosmiths spHERe initiative – a network supporting female founders and venture capitalists within the VC space. Open to all women and men, founders or venture capitalists spHERe’s goal is help women to be successful through creating a forum for more meaningful networking opportunities within the VC space and to help address the disparities that exist between female and male entrepreneurs and the ways in which we can break down the barriers to making entrepreneurship more accessible to women, increasing funding access to start-up and growth businesses as well as addressing society’s role towards gender typical roles and unconscious bias that have created barriers to entry for women.

  • John Cushing

    John Cushing

    John is the CEO of mnAI. An ardent tech enthusiast, he specialises in fast-growth digital companies and is an advisor to the Silicon Valley Bank growth-stage advisory panel.

    Prior to this he was a mentor for the American accelerator, TechStars, worked for the corporate venture capital team at the John Lewis Partnership and is a non-exec director/chair to early-stage technology companies.

    Supporting inclusion and diversity amongst entrepreneurs has been a lifelong passion, central to which is the availability and access to finance and guidance for female founders.

  • Julie Kapsalis

    Julie Kapsalis

    Julie Kapsalis has worked in economic development for 20 years with a particular focus on enterprise, skills and social inclusion. As well as being Chair of Coast to Capital LEP, she is Chair of the Catalyst South Group of the six South East LEPs. Julie served as an advisor to the UK Government's task force on women's enterprise and contributed to the Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship including developing the expert in residence programme and the pilot to gender disaggregate LEP data.

    Julie is Principal & CEO at North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot) in Epsom in Surrey. Nescot supports around 8,000 learners each year and has recently opened a new Institute of Technology.

  • Priya Lakshmi

    Priya Lakshmi

    Priya is part of the Professional Services leadership team at Amazon Web Services. Her team supports the largest and most strategic customers build and transform with AWS technologies. She has a track record of helping financial services organizations globally, for over 25 years, to innovate and build new products and solutions.

    She is passionate about leveraging the power of data and technology to create much broader impact. Priya is also an active mentor of upcoming women talent in technology.

  • Stephen Roper

    Stephen Roper

    Stephen is the Professor of Enterprise at Warwick Business School and Director of the Enterprise Research Centre an independent research centre which conducts policy relevant research on SME growth and development.

    Prior to joining WBS, Stephen was Professor of Business Innovation at Aston Business School and before that he was Assistant Director of the Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre, Belfast. Stephen holds a BA Hons in Economics from the University of Durham, an MPil in Economics from Oxford University and a PhD in Economics from LSE.

  • Professor Eleanor Shaw, OBE

    Professor Eleanor Shaw, OBE

    Eleanor is Head of the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow. She is a values-led, inclusive entrepreneurial leader with more than 25 years’ experience of working with entrepreneurs, complimented by a portfolio of entrepreneurship research that has informed the design and delivery of entrepreneurial education, influenced entrepreneurial policy, and guided the development of successful growth interventions which have supported the scale up of numerous Scottish ventures. Eleanor is a senior leader within the Higher Education sector and is passionate about using her knowledge, expertise, and networks to unlock entrepreneurial potential across Scotland’s economy. She holds an MA and a PhD from the University of Glasgow and was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours List 2022 for her services to Entrepreneurship and Education.

    Eleanor holds a number of board and external appointments including, on the boards of the Beatson Cancer Charity, the Chartered Association of Business Schools, Enable and is a Strategic Advisor to Pathways Forward which seeks to grow participation of under-represented groups in entrepreneurship and business ownership. She also sits on the People, Talent & Leadership Committee of the ScaleUp Institute.

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