With the wave of recent media coverage around issues and challenges facing women in the workplace across various industries – one has to wonder, is my industry any better?
Finance, and private equity in particular, have been and continue to be male dominated professions. According to a recent report by industry research firm Preqin, the proportion of senior roles in private equity held by women remains extremely low. Specifically, women comprised of less than 18% of all employees in the private equity industry, and held just 9% of senior private equity executive roles.
While women may be a clear minority in private equity as well as investment banking, after operating in this industry for nearly 15 years I know that it can be an environment where women not only have a seat at the table - but also thrive.
I believe two significant factors enable women to be successful in private equity - their firm and their network.
In terms of firms, TSG Consumer Partners has set itself apart for its approach to gender balance. Four of TSG’s ten partners are women; and two out of four principals are women. And although gender balance has always been a focus for our firm, we don’t strive for diversity amongst our leaders because it’s simply the right thing to do – we strive for it because it drives results. Gender balance and diverse perspectives are seen as a competitive advantage by TSG co-founder and CEO, Chuck Esserman, and Jamie O’Hara, TSG’s President. Women now make up almost 40% of new entrepreneurs in the United States, the highest percentage since 1996 (according to the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity), and these female entrepreneurs, who are accustomed to sitting across from male investors, are turning to firms that understand their needs. Additionally, with women making the majority of purchasing decisions in the U.S., it’s important to have that perspective in the boardroom.
In some aspects, TSG mirrors the companies it partners with – allowing for a balance of motherhood and work demands. These views and policies, along with the extremely successful track-record at the firm, are why I decided to join TSG in January of 2016.
Hadley Mullin, who joined TSG in 2004, is a Senior Managing Director at the firm, and, unlike many of her counterparts in the industry, is not surrounded by men. After starting at the firm, she brought in two other female partners, Jennifer Moser and Blythe Jack, who are both currently Managing Directors. Hadley also helped implement a sustainable model for women to be successful by allowing flexibility.
Although we have a strong female presence at our firm, we haven’t created any quotas, nor we do believe that someone deserves a job more than their counterpart because of their gender. The firm has always, and will always, hire candidates based on their qualifications and talent. That said, the firm has set a truly differential standard for allowing its employees to enjoy both an incredibly successful career and a strong family life in a demanding industry.
Outside of my firm, the network we have developed through ACG has helped us create a community of women facing the same pressures, demands and dynamics of working in private equity/finance. ACG Women-focused events have helped me foster those relationships and have given us a chance to share our stories and strategies for success - in addition to giving us an outlet of successful women in this industry who can help each other navigate it.
There is still a long way to go towards gender equality in private equity. But I’m proud to work at TSG, and thank ACG for giving me the opportunity to meet with other women in the industry as we strive to make changes one person at a time.
Irena Blind, is a Principal at TSG Consumer Partners, a private equity firm focused exclusively on the branded consumer sector. She is a member of the ACG New York Board as well as the Consumer Brands & Retail Conference Committee. An ACG New York member since 2016, Ms. Blind previously assisted with the organization's Sponsorship Committee.