Women have historically been underrepresented in private markets. According to an International Finance Corporation report, women hold only 10 percent of all senior positions in private equity and venture capital firms globally, while other asset classes are similarly skewed. “Only around 14 percent of corporate credit management industry staffing in Europe are female,” says Coralie De Maesschalck, head of CSR and ESG at Kartesia.
“As an industry, we are not reflecting the societies we operate in”
There is consensus among firms that having a more diverse team leads to better decision-making. “As an industry, we are not reflecting the societies we operate in,” says Kirsta Anderson, chief people officer at Partners Group.
The IFC report found that PE firms with gender-balanced senior investment teams achieved 10 to 20 percent higher returns. “The quality of your decision-making dictates your success,” says Anderson. “Ensuring that you’re making the best possible decisions – which means making sure you’ve got a diversity of perspective going into those decisions – is crucial to us.”
The impact of education
Encouraging a more gender-diverse and inclusive team starts with education. Many firms have outreach and educational programs targeted at channeling more women and individuals from underrepresented communities into private funds.
Having launched the Kartesia for Women Initiative at the end of 2020, Kartesia aims to inspire women to join the company and enter the broader private debt and equity industries. As part of this initiative, De Maesschalck says women within the firm are encouraged to speak up about their professional experiences, as well as take extra time to provide additional insight for women interested in the sector.
Almost a decade ago, Blackstone launched the Future Women Leaders program to create a talent pipeline to become their next generation of senior leadership. The program provides female students with early exposure to finance through seminars, networking events and mentorship. “We are committed to attracting, developing and advancing a diverse workforce that represents a spectrum of backgrounds, identities and experiences,” says Devin Glenn, global head of DE&I at Blackstone. Following the success of this program, Blackstone launched further initiatives focused on recruiting more diverse leaders and innovators into the technology industry.
“Different perspectives enhance performance,” says Kerryann Benjamin, chief diversity officer and head of talent development at KKR, which uses virtual tools and webinars to reach a broader audience.
As well as hosting diversity-specific programs for students introducing them to KKR, Benjamin says the firm partners with organizations such as Girls Who Invest and Out for Undergrad “to foster stronger ties with underrepresented groups and support the widening of our talent funnel”. The impact of such programs is clear; since the formation of KKR’s Inclusion & Diversity Council in 2014, the number of women in investing roles has risen from 9 percent to 28 percent.
Such initiatives are now becoming widespread in private markets and beyond, and focus on more than just gender diversity. Partners Group and Blackstone are among the 700-plus firms taking part in the 10,000 Black Interns program, for example, which aims to bring new voices and perspectives to organizations and offer opportunities to individuals who may face barriers to entry.