Women’s Initiatives in the Private Markets Industry


Women’s Initiatives in the Private Markets Industry
By Emily Nomeir, Principal

Last month, Hamilton Lane had the opportunity to participate in the AIF Women Investors Forum, an event dedicated to “the exchange of ideas, best practices and information among institutional investors, with a specific focus on gender diversity and initiatives for the advancement of women in the alternative investment industry.” Designed to be a smaller and more intimate affair than some other industry conferences, the event was nevertheless well attended by a mix of LPs, GPs and other private markets players.

During the main morning panel – Women’s Initiatives Across the Industry – I had the opportunity to present a high-level overview of Hamilton Lane’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. Currently, women comprise a full 40% of our total employee base (that stat is 57% outside of the U.S.), while 30% of our senior leaders are female.1 Although we are proud of these numbers, particularly when compared to our industry benchmarks, we also recognize that we must be proactive and vigilant in continuing to educate, recruit, develop and advance women. We believe that diversity and inclusion must be a firm-wide movement, and should start at the top. Promoting diversity has long been ingrained as part of our culture, but we continue to formalize and expand our efforts to benefit both Hamilton Lane and our broader asset class.

Today, we have a multitude of employee-led functions, initiatives and organizations – including a Diversity & Inclusion Council – that seek to educate and train women in the private markets. We’ve seen that having diversity in opinions, backgrounds and views is beneficial to our firm, employees and clients, and gives us a competitive edge. We’re proud of our achievements to date, but recognize there's plenty of room to do more.

It was great to see so many heads nodding around the room as I shared our approach to promoting a more diverse and inclusive environment, and that tied in nicely with some of the other discussions amongst women at the helm of important industry organizations. Two of these organizations in particular were highlighted by speakers, including PEWIN and Girls Who Invest.

PEWIN was formed to facilitate the building of networks and relationships among women in the industry. PEWIN's Best Practices for Businesses focus on: recruitment, retention, gender-related policies and infrastructure. One issue facing women in this asset class is that because there are not as many women, it’s that much harder for them to know each other and see each other. There was discussion around the fact that although there are many industry initiatives targeted towards junior women, there's not a lot of support at the senior level – and that’s what PEWIN aims to change. The conversation continued around other challenges of being a senior woman in the industry; with participants noting that, at times, it can be isolating and that men often struggle to work with or report to a woman in a more senior position.

To address this, women can look to find ways to increase their profiles and be viewed as industry experts by talking about substantive topics in financial services. And while these best practices provide a good framework for women, men can and need to be a part of these efforts as well.

An attendee raised a point about how women are often viewed as being risk averse, and that there are career benefits of being viewed as someone who is seen as willing to take risks. There was a feeling amongst participants that as women begin to assume more of the role as the primary breadwinners in their families, their willingness to take risks will naturally increase as well.

Another highlight was around Girls Who Invest, a non-profit dedicated to increasing the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the asset management industry. Speakers agreed the oft-referenced ‘pipeline problem’ excuse for low percentages of women at firms is only part of the issue; in fact, the cultures of many firms are also not very welcoming toward women. That's the more challenging, but equally important, conversation to have, and we need to do it more often.

Girls Who Invest focuses on messaging and communication with young women about the opportunities in the industry, and has received impressive reception since it was formed  in 2015. The progress of the program is already quite impressive. Girls Who Invest has doubled the number of its candidates this year, and about 80% of the first class went into PE jobs as a result of their internships. We at Hamilton Lane are proud to be a newly-minted partner of the program, having welcomed two candidates on our Fund Investment Team over the summer.

Events like this, which facilitate real discussion and a knowledge exchange around how to address the issue of so few women in private equity, are a critical part of moving this industry forward. And at Hamilton Lane, we are committed to doing what we can to write a new storyline.

1 As of March 31, 2017

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