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Champions for Diversity

Getting The Message Out To Women

When it comes to recruiting best-in-class talented women into the private equity industry, there’s a bit of a communication breakdown. Alisa Amarosa Wood, Member, Client and Partner Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. details some of the industry efforts under way to market to, recruit and mentor women to order reduce the current gender gap.

Starting The Conversation

The first step in bringing about the changes necessary to recruit, retain and promote talented women in the private equity industry, is having an honest conversation about life’s pain points, says Alisa Amarosa Wood, Member, Client and Partner Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. Discussing the challenges with caring for sick parents, dealing with business school or raising a family could lead to productive policies at industry firms that could not only help attract talented women but also lead to greater productivity.

Policies To Retain Women

Bronwyn D. Bailey, Vice President – Research & Investor Relations, American Investment Council, says private equity firms can take steps to ensure gender diversity, including formal leadership training for men and women, family leave policies, more formalized pathways to promotion and compensation. She also points out the need to track data and statistics on recruitment and retention of women to determine whether these steps are having the proper impact.

Industry Efforts Towards Gender Diversity

Bronwyn D. Bailey, Vice President – Research & Investor Relations, American Investment Council, shares some of the policies firms have instituted to recruit and retain greater numbers of women. They include educational programs for female high school students and internships for university undergraduates. She also cites efforts by BlackRock and Wilshire Consulting to increase market awareness for diversity and creating a new standard for normal business practices.

Sponsors, Advocates Needed

To truly move the needle towards greater gender diversity, male and female private equity leaders are needed to serve as advocates to help show junior women the path to success and speak on their behalf within their respective firms. Kelly M. Williams, Senior Advisor, GCM Grosvenor, also points out that having written promotion policies and reviews are also required to level the playing field.

Creating a Culture of Inclusion

Setting policies and programs at a private equity firm that are conducive to recruiting and retaining women is about creating a culture of inclusion, says Kelly M. Williams, Senior Advisor, GCM Grosvenor. She suggests that men within those firms look to who the next superstar is and make sure that career is being managed the same way a male’s career would be. Simply having a woman as part of a recruiting team visiting college campuses is also a step in the right direction.

Progressive Practices

Maha Eltobgy, Head of Investors Industries, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum LLC, says private equity firms are starting to create mechanisms to penetrate the perception that the industry has an old boys’ club atmosphere. Among these practices are working with human resources departments to ensure that the firm is looking at resumes for qualified female candidates and interviewing more women.