International Women’s Day: In conversation with Rosie Speight, co-founder of Equi London
For our second conversation celebrating International Women’s Day, we had the pleasure of speaking to Rosie Speight, co-founder of the award-winning women’s supplements Equi London. From working in investment banking to being an entrepreneur and mom of two daughters, Rosie shared with us her views on women in business, equal opportunities and much more.
Hi Rosie, thank you for taking to time to chat with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what was your career path?
My name is Rosie and I live in central London with my husband and two daughters, who are 7 and 3 and very loud. I’m the co-founder of the vitamin company Equi London; we produce a range of nutritional supplements that support women at all stages of life. Our products are unique in the sense that they are total body support in 1 - we combine around 50 pure, science backed nutrients to nourish the whole body whilst also having a targeted benefit such as skin, menopause or weight management. Our aim is to remove the confusion and disappointment of the supplement market and save our customers the hassle and expense of trying to create their own supplement plans with products that generally weren’t designed to go together.
I met my business partner, Alice Mackintosh on the first day of university and we’ve been great friends ever since. She is a nutritional therapist and has formulated the products based on her functional approach to nutrition and 10 years’ experience in clinic. My background is slightly less healthy, having worked on the busy trading floors of investment banks for almost a decade. I left Banking to start Equi after experiencing first-hand the power of a complete supplement range when Alice helped me with hormonal acne after coming off the pill. This combination of 8 supplements that she’d recommended was expensive, a faff to take each morning and crucially, only accessible through practitioners - so we thought that we’d create an all-in-one product… and Equi was started.
You’ve mentioned working in investment banking, an industry renowned for being fast-paced and demanding. What was one of the most challenging experiences you had to go through as a woman?
I left banking for several reasons, but one of them was that I felt it wasn’t a job well suited to the experience of motherhood which I wanted. I was working in equity sales, it was a high pressured job, early mornings, long hours, lots of meetings and client entertainment. I loved it and worked with the most amazing people, but I knew it wouldn’t work for me once I started a family. The last thing I wanted to do was work my maternity and then have nothing to go back to… I love working, its very much part of my identity. I was also very passionate about starting a business and wanted the challenge of creating something meaningful and valuable, but also wanted to dictate my own schedule. I resigned a year before planning to start trying for a baby to set up Equi, which definitely was a defining moment. I’d wanted to work in banking since I was 16 and geared all of my education towards it, I had a great job in at the leading investment bank with great opportunities ahead of me, so leaving was a very tough decision. That said, it’s the best one I ever made and I couldn’t be happier working for myself, managing the balance with my girls and scaling Equi both here and internationally… I love it so much and feel so lucky to be doing what I am.
As the co-founder and director of Equi London, you are part of the minority of women that hold leadership positions: according to the Fawcett Society’s Sex and Power report 2022 only eight women are currently employed as CEOs in the FSTE 100, while women hold only 14% of executive directorships and 38% of all directorships. What do you think employers can do to offer women more of the right-fit opportunities they seek in the world of work and to continuously support and embrace equity in the workplace?
I studied Economics at university and wrote my dissertation on sexism within the labour market, specifically in investment banking. I’d taken a year in industry for my 3rd year and worked at a leading investment bank before going back to finish my 4th year. I therefore had an in with the network I’d built in the city and wanted to leverage that for my academic work. What I learnt and what I found was two-fold. Firstly, there are ‘equal opportunities’, but these work for men considerably more than women, and for women to succeed to board level in leading firms, we need unequal opportunities as women need a different work structure to men, if they are to have children.
Secondly, though men and women are equally ambitious, men tend to be a lot more forthright - pushing their bosses for promotion, pay rise and accelerating their corporate ladder climb more quickly. Women take a more passive approach, which when competing against men, leaves them lagging. Lastly, the main ‘producing’ and therefore rewarding positions tend to attract men naturally (trading, sales), vs the softer positions more commonly filled by women (HR, compliance).
I must note that this was 15 years ago and banks have done a lot of work to improve gender equality since, taking important measures like promoting women to senior positions whilst on maternity leave, however I think this is indicative of wider commerce.
Thank you, as you said it’s great that improvements were made but we appreciate the road is still long. If there is 1 piece of advice you would give to young women in any industry that want to progress their careers, what would it be?
See your feminism as a super power, use it as a super power and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.