Since I started working for PER last summer I have been keen to organise an event specifically for women. On 25th January that day finally came, when we held the first
PER Women’s Dialogue!
The event was created to give successful female professionals the opportunity to network
with others like themselves, and exchange experiences, including discussing the positive and negative aspects of a private equity career as a woman.
We invited top female professionals from private equity, investment banking, consulting and accounting and more than 50 women accepted our invitation. We were also delighted to have Dörte Höppner (COO, Riverside Europe, Chair of the German Chapter Level20) as moderator. Alongside Dörte, Annika Maldener (CVC), Nelli Mirontschenko (Triton), Laura Schröder (Advent International), Sana Piracha (formerly One Equity Partners) and Vanessa Schneider (formerly Brockhaus) participated in the discussion and shared their insights and experience.
At the beginning of the event, I gave a brief overview of the private equity market in Germany and then summarised the headlines from the recent Prequin study: Women fill only 9% of senior private equity positions. Why? What prevents super qualified female professionals in private equity from staying in the industry? Moreover, why do women candidates take on average eight calls to respond to exciting job opportunities, instead of two like men?
Are women less adept at applying for jobs and handling headhunters?
Our experience is that women are less opportunistic when it comes to talking to headhunters and they do more research before accepting calls. Many women agreed that they first try to find out how many common contacts the headhunter has before they reply. The general consensus of the evening is that men are just more ruthless in dealing with headhunters: the "boys" talk openly at their desks at work while the “girls” were much more hesitant to accept calls because someone might find out.
Men often meet for a drink in the evenings and always get the latest gossip. That means they are much more informed about what's happening in the market right now. Women generally do not do that. Women’s events like this, and Level20 Initiatives are very important. Women in private equity need role models and need to network more closely.
Nelli Mirontschenko (Triton) also had this experience "Sometimes women prefer not to take the lead in going forward for job processes. We typically wait until we see male colleagues interviewing before putting ourselves forward.”
What about balancing a career in private equity with having a family?
Sana Piracha (currently on parental leave) says she did not think about family / work-life balance when she started working in investment-banking and private equity. “That's just not what most women think about at the beginning of their careers, but it usually gets relevant much later on”.
Other women at the table agreed that you would not think of something like that at this age. There are more important issues to think about, such as female role models, male-dominated work culture, female colleagues in the team, etc. Sana Piracha, now a mother and glad to concentrate on her children right now, comments further: “You can go back after parental leave. Funds should still be very interested in having an experienced woman who is motivated and has already had her family.”
Laura Schroder (Advent International): "Of course, as a working mother you also have to be prepared for some resistance and criticism." Asked why she even started a family if she wanted to work full-time, she replied, "My family and my career job are both very important to me – that’s just a fact. Of course, this job is tough and I frequently have to be able to spend a night away from home, some times at short notice, which is a challenge for the family. But often this can be organised or planned in advance, especially if colleagues understand the issues and are supportive. In the end, though, you can really only manage this together as a family."
How do you feel about positions “only” open to women?
The consensus was that most women do not want to participate in processes that are "only for women". They want to be hired because of their ability and not just because of the "quota". Women are afraid of being stigmatised through such processes, and believe that they have to work twice as much as men to be taken seriously.
Why are women so important for private equity?
Women have a positive impact on negotiations, they create a more balanced atmosphere in management meetings, are less harsh and above all they see the potential investment from a different angle. They represent half the talent pool and the best firms should want to hire from all that potential, not just part of it.
Conclusion of the evening:
I believe that we should encourage more women to move into private equity and help them when it comes to difficult situations. Not only PER as the leading recruiter in this industry, but also the women investment professional themselves must support each other better and continue to network more effectively around these issues!
Feedback on the evening:
“I liked most the very honest comments of the speakers and the opportunity to ask questions informally. The spirit of the event was really motivating”
“I really liked the evening. I found it very pleasant to be able to talk to many women and make new contacts and to network with each other. I especially liked the atmosphere in the Chinaski day bar. The location really worked very well with the event.”
“Many thanks for the invitation tonight and congratulations on a successful event. It is very important that there are such events!”
“From my side, a very positive feedback. I found the evening very successful and I think it is a good format to make private equity attractive for women and share experiences with each other”
A huge thank you to our attendees and speakers who gave significant insights into how to prepare for a career in private equity and what they have experienced in their careers to date.
PER plans to hold a second networking event on the subject of women in private equity in Munich in Q4 of this year. If you are interested to attend or want to follow up on other matters, please contact:
Daniela.Braemisch@PER-people.com or Constantin.Trapp@PER-people.com