Women in Private Equity? Less than 10%

Yesterday morning, I attended a “Women in Private Equity” panel, sponsored by a consortium of Private Equity firms like Blackstone, Apax, KKR, and THL. The event consisted of a panel of several female Managing Directors and Partners, moderated by Sandra Horbach (MD at the Carlyle Group). Afterwards, we had a light informal breakfast and networked with the panel and other participants. 

When Michael George (MD at Fortress) kicked off the morning, he called it a recruiting event – not for the individual firms, but for women in Private Equity in general. Investment banking analyst classes are on average 25% female, a ratio that drops below 10% when we look at post-banking careers such as venture capital, private equity, and hedge funds. 

Here were my key take-aways:

  • Surprisingly, there are more women in senior positions in Private Equity in Europe & Asia than the US. Panelists attributed this to the generous support system in Europe and Asia for working moms, such as maternity leave and other benefits. This line of reasoning goes hand-in-hand to the debate on maternity leave sparked by Marissa Mayer’s pregnancy. The U.S. is the only major industrialized country not to guarantee paid parental leave nationwide. 
  • Don’t clean the house, don’t do the laundry. The secret to achieving work/life balance, apparently, is knowing how to set boundaries and paying a bit of money so that you’re not doing chores during your off-days. The 99% in me still feels too guilty to use drop-off laundry service, but I have to admit that this is a good way to maximize leisure/family/social time. 
  • Find a mentor, find a champion. Mentors are those who you can go for advice, professionally or personally. Champions are those who will bang the proverbial table for you when it comes to reviews or throw your name in the ring for that promotion. Going through the review process during my first year made me realize that despite claims of a meritocracy, it’s often the people who have the loudest supporters who end up ahead of the pack.

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