Indian Women Join Hands to Break the Boys Club in Private Equity

“How to trade, when to trade, when to go in for the kill is an art that women have displayed,” says famed lawyer and founder and managing partner of law firm AZB & Partners, “In fact, we can often read the room better, in large part due to our EQ, and achieve the same outcomes in a less confrontational way,” she adds. However, despite this women are barely seen or heard in the world of private equity, not to mention that there are even fewer women at the top. For those who are have been active in this sector like Nupur Garg, former regional lead for private equity in South Asia at International Finance Corporation, it feels like one is breaking a glass ceiling when she saw that she was the only woman to be invited for an event, but when things remained the same over the years, it wasn’t something you could write home about. 

Women are primarily employed in investor relations and finance teams, comprising 53% and 39% of employees in those roles respectively

Today, a decade later, things are still the same and Garg reveals that the private equity industry has not added women to its ranks and surely this is not because of the absence of talent, and due to this reason alone, something is in the works to take on a gender-equal policy in hiring and promoting staff. WinPE, a not-for-profit organization started by Garg aims to boost gender-diversity in the investing ecosystem and many of her peers are focusing their attention on this initiative in order to break the current status quo. Today, women comprise only 17.9 percent of private equity employees across the world and this is the most dismal figure among the asset class since the year 2017. “Women are primarily employed in investor relations and finance teams, comprising 53% and 39% of employees in those roles respectively. However, at senior levels, those proportions fall to 34% of investor relations and 25% of finance staff,” revealed a Preqin report on Women in Private Equity. Hence, it is vital that the success of companies in private equity are measure by their diversity as well as their financial success, rather than financial successes alone. 

Institutions have to work proactively towards improving the intake ratio and only then, gradually, will the ratio improve as you go up

“If these shareholders do not have an appreciation for the merits of gender balance, we can’t hope to achieve true parity in board rooms, in promoters/entrepreneurs, in the C-suite, in the workforce or in supply chain linkages,” added Garg. Although India boasts many leading successful PE and VC funds, like Shweta Jalan, India head of Advent International; Archana Hingorani, former head of IL&FS PE; Vani Kola, managing director of Kalaari Capital and more the problem is that many shareholders do not share the passion for gender equity, so how can one expect the industry to change. IIM-Kozhikode director Debashis Chatterjee said, “It is not a talent issue. It is an issue about choice. Institutions have to work proactively towards improving the intake ratio and only then, gradually, will the ratio improve as you go up. Once the institutes do the needful, the corporates have to back it up by ensuring more women climb up the ranks.”

Image credit: Financial Times

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