Menka Sajnani’s career journey is a testament to resilience, adaptability, and breaking gender barriers in traditionally male-dominated sectors. Born in India and raised in Hong Kong, Menka’s early education in an all-girls Catholic convent school set the stage for a journey that would lead her from media sales to finance, tech, and ultimately venture capital.

Presently working as a Partner at Jungle, focused on Investor Relations, she was previously Jungle’s Head of Fundraising and had built and led the firm’s IR Function. Menka has been in the private equity and venture capital industry for 15 years with diverse experience across fund of funds investments, fundraising, and investor relations.

In this conversation with Collective for Equality, Menka shared how she navigated multiple sectors from finance to tech and venture capital with grace and offered insights into the challenges faced by women in the workplace and the importance of fostering inclusive environments.

From Journalism to Finance: Embracing Change

Menka’s career initially took a turn towards journalism, but the allure of making a stable living in Hong Kong pushed her into the realm of finance. Joining Mergermarket in 2007 during the early days of India’s financial boom, she embarked on a sales role, selling their services to banks and private equity funds in India. Despite not fitting the conventional mould for finance professionals, Menka’s passion and writing skills impressed her ex-boss, leading to a career-shaping opportunity in a private equity fund of funds.

Reflecting on the leap into finance, Menka states, “I was the most affordable candidate. I was 24 at the time, and he felt that he could mould me. So, he took a bet on me, and again, like, I think this speaks to men… saying, ‘I’m gonna give this woman a chance and give her a career break.'”

Menka spent seven years in finance, investing in funds and building relationships in an industry heavily dominated by men. Despite the challenges of being one of the few women in the field, she flourished in her role. “I was investing $10, 15, 20 million in funds. This is an incredible experience, and I think that helped me grow up,” she reflects.

However, Menka realized she needed a change, leading to a pivotal move to Google in 2014, where she delved into new business development and worked with startups in Southeast Asia. Her time at Google opened her eyes to the region’s tech potential. Subsequently, she transitioned back to venture capital, joining Jungle Ventures in 2016 and later B Capital, where she led investor relations. She rejoined Jungle Ventures last year in 2023.

Reflection and Return

After a brief hiatus following the birth of her child, Menka returned to Jungle in 2023. Her role now primarily focuses on capital raising for funds. In a candid moment, she shares, “I tell you fertility support for women, whether it’s egg freezing or IVF or IUI, is a game-changer.” Menka emphasizes the importance of workplace support, highlighting programs like Carrot Fertility that provide resources for fertility journeys.

Menka acknowledges the internal challenges she faced, including self-limiting beliefs and the difficulty in asserting herself. Working with a leadership coach since 2013, she learned to navigate some of these obstacles. “I realized I’m just not a confrontationist. I just don’t know how to push back… I’m glad that I took that step. But again, it involved a lot of self-awareness, looking within, and taking accountability. I am still learning!”

She emphasizes the need for young women entering the workforce to address limiting beliefs and seek positive role models. Menka encourages self-awareness and taking action, advising, “The only thing you can control is what you do.”

Gender Bias in Access to Capital

Menka shares insights on the challenges women-owned businesses face in accessing capital. She attributes it to implicit biases prevalent in society, rather than solely blaming men. Maternal bias also plays a role, both from men and women, as concerns about work commitment arise. Menka believes open conversations and deep engagement are crucial to uncovering and addressing these biases.

On her involvement in initiatives supporting women founders, Menka acknowledges her primary role in capital raising but mentions informal mentorship and advice she provides to women entrepreneurs. She stresses the importance of fertility support programs as a workplace best practice.

While Menka considers herself fortunate to have worked in inclusive environments. She notes her lack of exposure to gender bias due to her work in diverse and supportive organizations.