Investment manager and Brexit campaigner Gina Miller has revealed she was mistaken for a cleaner at a City of London event because of the colour of her skin.
Miller, who grew up in Guyana and was named the UK’s most influential black person in 2017, said it is “extraordinary how those biases are still there”.
Speaking to entrepreneur podcast “Can I ask you a personal question?” Miller said: “Very often [I’ve been] mistaken for the secretary – or the cleaner quite often.”
She recalled leaving the toilets at an event at a big City firm, “and this woman sort of came up to me who was from the firm, you know, one of the directors. And she sort of said, ‘Oh, we’ve run out of toilet paper.’ And I said, ‘Sorry?’ She said, ‘You’re the cleaner, aren’t you?’ And I said, ‘No, actually, I’m one of your guests this evening.”
Miller touched on the Black Lives Matter movement, which has gathered momentum in the past month following the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by four Minneapolis policemen.
“Things that have happened over the years, I suppose, could be categorised as: Oh, but we didn’t think you would be in that position,” she said. “So I couldn’t be bright enough, successful enough as a woman of colour, to be there.”
Miller, who is a founding partner of wealth manager SCM Direct, also spoke about the challenges female entrepreneurs face when seeking access to finance.
“If you look at the incredibly small number of women, or female-led, or female-only companies who get access to VC, private equity – both in the US and the UK, actually – it is shamefully low,” she said.
When she launched her agency in the 1990s, she recalls being told she would have more success if she had a male chief executive “so people lending you money have more faith in your business.”
“Access to finance is a real problem for women, and it still is now today,” Miller said. “Women still tell me that banks and financiers have that conversation with them, and will ask them very inappropriate questions.”
You can listen to the podcast episode in full here.