Women Execs in PE: Few and Far Between

It’s a well known fact that women are rare specimens in the PE world, making up less than 10% of private equity executives globally. An article in Asian Venture Capital Journal gives the following statistics:

Women occupy a paltry 8.7% of executive positions in private equity outside Europe and North America, according to a Prequin report released in February. Europe leads the field with 9.1%, while North America is on 8.9%. Statistics on the topic are difficult to come by, and Prequin’s figure itself is wide-reaching, encompassing buyout, venture, mezzanine, distressed debt and other private equity vehicles. If the number of women GPs were specifically examined, representation would undoubtedly fall below 8.7%.

Why is this the case? According to the article, it’s due to “[the] strenuous work schedules, constant traveling and too much testosterone in the office.” Really? Perhaps this is partially accurate, women do need to work on closing the ambition gap. The article also explains that the white men in high level positions are inclined to hire people like themselves – i.e. not women. So, what will make them change their minds? The article concludes that the only thing that can be done to change this is for women in high level PE positions to continue fostering valuable relationships with their male counterparts. Psilo Suennen, co-founder and MD of Psilos Group gives some advice:

Don’t be afraid to hang with the guys on their terms, put your head down and deliver. Find a mentor or colleague that is gender-blind and perform the hell out of your job,” she says. “When you produce cash returns to investors, they are eager to see you do it again and forget you are wearing a bra.

Even though women are few and far between in the PE world, there are some positive figures that show women are making strides:

Blackstone Group and KKR did not respond to AVCJ queries by press time.
Interestingly, there is a global trend for women to create their own opportunities. Rather than work their way up the ladder to the top of existing firms, women are launching independent funds. Asia has been a hotbed of spinoff vehicles. In China, former Baring Private Equity executive Kathy Xu launched Capital Today, Melissa Ma, Rebecca Xu and Laure Wang started Asia Alternatives, and, most recently, Mary Ma departed TPG to launch Boyu Fund. Activity in India has been led by Renuka Ramnath, who departed ICICI Venture to launch Multiples Alternate, and Veronica John, who started Serasi Capital after leaving IL&F.

The day of a women enjoying being the sole-female at a bar celebrating with her male co-workers will probably never come… Until then, women should foster relationships with their male counterparts by talking about politics, current events and relevant business!

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