From one woman in private equity to another, by Gail McManus

26 February 2019 | Gail McManus, Managing Director

 

Would you like an insight into the concerns of women working in your firm? A precious commodity in the private equity market, all firms are keen to hang on to and push their female team members forward where they can. At our regular breakfast events, women in private equity open up about what’s important to them in their careers and give advice to one another on how to overcome common hurdles. Here’s an overview of the topics discussed and the advice shared.

Women's Breakfast events

Equality is everyone’s business

Female representation differs greatly depending on the individual firm. Some of our attendees come from firms where as few as 10% of the team is female, while others are in equally split workplaces. However, all recognise the need for greater female representation across the industry, especially at higher levels. Most of the women we speak to make the point that men need to be part of the conversation and actively involved in organisations like Level 20 if there’s going to be a significant change.

Specialise, don’t generalise 

We’ve heard some great advice for those who feel their diligence is failing to lead to promotion: work smarter not harder. Being the person who gets things done only gets you more to do. Instead, become the go-to person for something specific such as an industry sector by actively demonstrating your expertise in that area. We’ve spoken to women in senior positions who’ve decreased their workload and increased their status in their firms by following this strategy.

Learn the art of self-promotion

Reaching the next stage in your career is all about being as visible as possible to the decision makers at the top. Speaking up about your deals at weekly meetings, asking pertinent questions and making space in your line manager’s diary to discuss your successes were all top tips from our attendees on internal self-promotion.

Mentoring needn’t be formal

Firms often have valuable mentoring programmes that provide much-needed support, especially early on in a private equity career. However, you don’t have to wait to be assigned a mentor. Many of the women we meet say their mentors are peers, Partners or even those outside their funds whose work they esteem and whose career trajectory they’d like to emulate. They found that asking for guidance was generally well received as the people they look up to, regardless of gender, were keen to mentor an up-and-coming woman in the industry.

Know your market value

Don’t apologise for talking about money, an attendee at one of our breakfasts exclaimed, after all, we all work in private equity! For everyone at our breakfasts who has expressed concern about negotiating compensation, there has always been a positive story where questioning base salary was rewarded. All agree that you have to go in with the right information, so it’s important to talk to recruiters and ascertain the industry benchmark for your position and experience.

Don’t be afraid

I always tell attendees at our breakfasts that most experienced women in the industry would like to tell their younger selves not to be afraid. And that’s the overwhelming message during all of our events; every time we see women encouraging one another to be fearless, whether in relation to career risks, networking or negotiations.  

Join the discussion

Our women’s breakfasts are a regular feature of the PER calendar. If you’d like to attend an event or know a woman working in private equity who would benefit, email Insights@PER-people.com for details and to book your place. 

About the author

Gail is the Managing Director and founder of PER, setting up the business in the late 1990s after a career in private equity at 3i.

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