Senior Private Equity women lose ground in Europe

Posted by Kea Consultants

March 12, 2014

Article in by Alec Macfarlane 12/03/2015


The proportion of women in top roles in European private equity has declined over the past year, according to data provider Preqin, but industry figures say positive steps are being taken to increase the number of women in senior positions.


Senior female employees as a proportion of the total number of senior staff in Europe fell to 9.7% as of March 2014, from 9.9% a year previous.


Private equity firms based in Europe also have the lowest proportion of women in senior roles globally, according to Preqin.


Hephzi Pemberton, a partner at recruitment consultancy Kea Consultants, said that one of the reasons for this is that private equity is a tough career for women, particularly when they are combining it with family commitments.


She said: “I don’t think there’s a lot of flexibility built into funds at the moment for women’s careers, or how they ideally could be structured. I certainly don’t know any women working on flexi or part time, or even taking more than three months of maternity leave.


“It is a tough career, and there isn’t enough of a female voice to be able to change it.”


Pemberton called on senior management to make more of an effort to have female friendly working agreements for those on maternity leave or with children — although she said there are positive steps being taken.


“It does sound like its coming on the agenda for the senior [figures] in the firms, and that this isn’t just an HR drive — this is very much a strategic move thinking long term,” she said.


“Some funds say as much as 50/50. Whether we can get there I don’t know, because there are still pipeline constraints. It needs to be something that’s being focused on campus, if not at school level, because the degree you take —even the A-Levels — impacts whether you can be competitive enough to get into finance. We need to make sure women are really equipped and competitive at that level.”


Andrea Echberg, a partner and head of European infrastructure investments at private equity investor Pantheon, said: “It’s something that will definitely change over time. If you think about where you need to be to get to the senior levels, you need to 15 to 20-plus years of experience to have got there and the industry has changed a lot in the last 15 to 20 years.”


She added: “When I first came into the industry it was extremely male-dominated, now we’re seeing a lot more very talented, very experienced female graduates coming into private equity, infrastructure and investment banking.”


Echberg said there are also now more senior female role models that other women can look up to, as well as an increase in networking groups to support the development of careers in the industry. These include the British Venture Capital Association’s Women in Private Equity events, which gather women from across the industry for peer-to-peer networking and discussion.


Despite the fall in Europe, the proportion of women in top private equity roles globally has increased marginally over the last year, from 10.4% in 2013 to 10.7% currently, according to Preqin.


North America saw the biggest rise in the proportion of senior women, from 10.3% in 2013 to 11% this year, the research showed.


Firms based in Asia have the highest proportion of women in senior roles, with an average of 11.8%, although this is a notable fall from 12.8% last year.


The proportion of women in senior positions at firms based outside Europe, Asia and North America is 10%. This is an increase from 9.8% last year, which was the lowest proportion globally at the time.


The Preqin research also showed that real estate has the highest proportion of women employed in senior roles, with an average of 12.8%, up from 11.3% last year. Infrastructure also enjoyed an increase from 10.5% last year to 11.7% this year, although this was down from 13.5% in 2012.


Buyout firms have the lowest percentage of women in senior roles at 9%, although this strategy is the only one to have seen a steady increase from 6.9% in 2012.


Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the proportion of women in top private equity roles globally has increased from 8.7% in 2013 to 9% currently. This was in fact the figure for the proportion of senior positions at private equity buyout firms globally that are held by women. The proportion of women in top private equity roles globally increased from 10.4% in 2013 to 10.7% currently.