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“I’m living my purpose and passion, doing something I truly believe in”

Portrait of Elizabeth Cowper beside the Gender Index logo and title 'TGI Game Changer'

Next up from our esteemed network of #TGI game changers, we are delighted to share some brilliant insights from Elizabeth Cowper, CEO and founder of SaaS platform Ludo, which delivers tech for workplace inclusion.

A company founder and a resounding voice on the issues facing women in the workplace, Elizabeth held senior HR roles in illustrious businesses such as LVMH, Harvey Nichols and Tapestry, prior to setting up Ludo.

When did you start Ludo?

Ludo started as WoMo (standing for working mother).

I was 25 years into my HR career when I had my third child almost  seven years ago.  I decided that we need to give more support to women in the workplace. So, I developed WoMo network as a website.

This started the idea that evolved into my company Ludo, which launched in 2020 when I stepped out of corporate life.

How did you go about turning your idea into a business?

Throughout my HR career I had seen the issues facing women at work. I’d dealt with employment tribunals where women had felt disconnected on maternity leave and where things hadn’t been handled properly. I have three children, and have always been very focused on my career. So, bringing together my personal experience and my company experience, I felt there was more we could do to drive a culture of inclusion in the workplace. I saw the inequalities, from the gender pay gap to the disadvantages of being a working mother. And that men were not facing the same challenges.

In my last corporate role at Tapestry, I was Global Head of Wellbeing and VP of HR for Europe. I then truly understood the importance of people being their authentic selves, and how that enhances productivity. That sparked my idea for my business. To provide HR with a toolkit to help them do a much better job at engaging talent, by driving a true culture of wellbeing and inclusion.

Please tell us – in a nutshell – what Ludo does?

We are a content platform and HR tool providing tech for inclusion. We work with expert partners who write on important topics, such as maternity, providing advice on hypnobirthing or breastfeeding for example.

We provide genuine insights to help women, whether they’re on maternity leave or just about to come back to work. Our module on menopause launches next month.

What sets us apart is that we are a resource for HR teams. We offer guidelines and a learning hub that can help line managers better understand how to behave when dealing with some of these issues.

What have been your biggest challenges?

For me, I’d always had a PAYE job, worked hard and got paid at the end of each month. I’d not been a founder so a big challenge was adjusting to entrepreneur life, how gritty and tough that can be. Working harder than ever and not necessarily getting paid at the end of each month!

Emotionally, it’s a roller coaster. Then throw in a pandemic and the solo parenting of three children! I think the challenges of the last three years have been enormous.

But equally rewarding, because I’m living my purpose and my passion and doing something I truly believe in. That’s what keeps me going.

What have been the highlights?

I’m raising funding at the moment; and securing investment is a huge challenge.. We’re in the process of raising another £1.5 million.

I’m personally excited that I’ve got people who are very much behind us.  I did an SEIS round last year and that’s all funded by angels. The venture capitalist route is notoriously tough for female founders.

Another big win is getting great clients!

And for me, meeting the amazing partner experts I do on the journey is a real privilege. I’ve met some incredible people and I’m personally learning loads.

How do you think technology can support women at work and female founders?

In many ways. We provide tech for inclusion, and tech in this space is very behind.

Tech can give women access to important information, without them having to ask.

For example, if, as a working woman, you want insights on the menopause, you may not want to tell your employer. So, information needs to be made freely, easily and – above all – privately available. This will likely be a tech solution.

Online communities are brilliant for entrepreneurs. As well online fundraising and legal services.

And then there’s platforms such as slack, zoom and microsoft teams – excellent for fostering good communication and building teams.

What one piece of advice would you give female founders?

Manage your own stress levels and anxiety! I learned this the hard way. Try to relinquish control. Sometimes you need to adjust and realise things don’t always go the way you expect. But you learn that where you start isn’t always where you end up.

As one of my investors once said: “Wherever you think you’re going, you’re going to pivot along the way a hundred times, so let go of the need to stay on the same track and have control.”

In summary, I’d say be open to options, experiences, contacts and connections because it can bring you something truly amazing! Don’t be afraid to deviate, you could miss something.

How do you think The Gender Index will help female company leaders?

The transparency of the data is so helpful! The fact that we can get insights, give information and it’s free and easy to access is brilliant. Understanding the full picture is vital in creating a more equal future.

Leveraging the data, having the numbers and statistics to hand allows us to have conversations, and ultimately take action.