Fearless Women in Private Equity

“Fearless Women in Private Equity”

Sam Smith

“Not much diversity there Mr. Smith” – a comment recently posted referring to a picture of a round table PEPTalks dinner – glaringly all male.

A difficult comment to counter – how could I when I felt the same? We need more women in positions of power – gender balancing is critical now more than ever before.

A quick look at our membership shows that we reflect the market – of our almost 100 PEPTalks members, six are women. Correspondingly, there are an estimated 50 female CEOs of Private Equity backed companies – out of a total of about 1,100.

This is the state of the market: only 5% of CEOs in Private Equity are women, whilst on the bigger playing field just 6.4% of chief executive roles in top companies are held by women.

Walking past the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue at Paternoster Square this week – erected earlier this month by asset manager SSGA as a replica of the original outside the New York Stock Exchange – made me think again. This symbolic image of a fearless young female reminded me of our aspiration at PEPTalks, which is to exceed not reflect the market in the number of female CEOs we have on our membership, and to make the discussion surrounding gender diversity in PE-backed companies central to our thesis.

The ‘Fearless Girl’ figurine is there to ignite a global conversation around the power of female leadership while inspiring businesses to make their boards more inclusive, gender-balanced and diverse.

This conversation post International Women’s Day and is very much alive, but we must see more headway – we need more women in positions of power, not just to drive their economic empowerment, but also to comprehensively benefit the businesses that they represent. Because if we do need a motive, we need only to consider this: gender balance has been proven to give companies a performance edge.

The ‘Fearless Girl’ is expected to stand her ground in the city for the next three months.

I am hoping her stay will be extended.