Diversity in Private Equity

Diversity in business has been increasingly topical over the last few years. In the UK, women account for just 12% of executive teams, despite the fact that a Credit Suisse press release stated that large-cap companies with at least one woman on the board outperform their peer group with no women by 26%. In private equity and venture capital, organisations like Level 20, Diversity VC, and Women in Venture have been increasing their influence, so few funds can remain impervious to the pressure to improve their diversity.

Our private equity team carries out annual research into the gender statistics across investment banking Analyst classes. As you can see from the pie charts, women are consistently outnumbered by men. The majority of banks recruit only one woman in every four or five hires. While firms like BAML have much more of an even gender ratio than most, statistics from banks like Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs suggest that female candidates stand a significantly smaller chance of finding their way into the investment banking industry.

While it’s true that the statistics are more favourable towards women than five years ago, there is still a significant difference. A lack of gender diversity could even put banks on the back foot or leave them unable to effectively target niche markets. 70% of women seeking advisors say they would prefer to work with a woman, meaning a bank without reasonable representation won’t appeal to a high percentage of an entire demographic.

Funds are unlikely to find solutions to their own diversity challenges if they rely on recruits from the investment banking industry. That means funds will have to think outside of the box in order to increase diversity in their firm, starting with considering other candidate pools. The issue with new candidate pools is that they consist of applicants who won’t be quite as well-versed in how the funds work. They may not possess the sector-specific skills and will struggle with case studies – their interviews aren’t likely to be as strong as traditional candidates’. It’s a vicious cycle.

What we at Walker Hamill would like to see is more enthusiasm for recruiting smart, capable, commercial people from less obvious backgrounds. Funds should consider candidate potential as well as current capability. There is plenty of talent to pick from if you’re willing to be open-minded about what candidates can bring to you on day one. A candidate with great potential can pick up requisite skills while also bringing in their own skills, knowledge, and experience.

Despite this article focusing specifically on private equity, credit, and infrastructure funds, the call for greater diversity exists across every industry. If your firm hasn’t already, now is the time to outline a strategy to address this. Just as important as developing a strategy is implementing it: despite 87% of organisations claiming diversity is a critical factor, much fewer than that figure actually act on this statement. Sadly, there are no quick fixes to the gender diversity problem. It requires long-term investment and consistent effort and tenacity – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

If you have any questions about this blog post or are simply looking for the ideal candidate, please feel free to get in touch via our contact page and we’ll be happy to help.


Back to Insights