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Women preferred in private equity to banking, apparently

Private equity is, in many ways, like SuperBanking. It’s the end goal for many of the industry’s most talented bankers and researchers, and in many ways exaggerates the extremes (both good and bad) in the industry. Except, weirdly, the gender disparity.

A new report from recruitment consultant Pretraga Partners analyzed female representation at 28 different private equity funds in London. The results were very curious – especially compared to their report on M&A teams a few months ago.

Women were better represented in private equity teams than they were in investment banking ones – and at the junior (analyst/associate) level, they made up nearly 40% of private equiteers, although this numbers collapses steadily collapses through seniority to just 9% of MDs and partners. Given that investment banking had a range of 30% for analysts to 6% for MDs, that’s a surprisingly good representation, although still far off parity.

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In terms of sectors, private equity is also weirdly… Equitable, compared to M&A. Pretraga Partners found that female representation in five major coverage teams ranged between 20% and 29%, compared to M&A’s range of 16% to 25%. Healthcare private equity teams, much like M&A teams, had the most women across the board, although retail & consumer roles came close.

Things are trending towards equality, however. Lazo Cetnik, who authored the report, said that diversity is “a priority” for funds. “Many of our recent PE searches have prioritized female candidates,” he said. “Many funds now have dedicated diversity professionals that are strategizing on how to improve diversity long term.” That even means encouraging A-Level students (in the UK) to pursue finance & STEM subjects at university.

The root causes of gender disparity in private equity, however, are the same ones across finance more generally. “Historically, finance has not been a gender diverse industry,” Cetnik said. 20 years ago, when many current MDs and Partners joined the industry, things were even more stark, which still has an impact today. “On top of that, generally speaking, finance is less ‘family friendly’, with long hours potentially making it difficult to balance work and family.”

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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