Preqin Research shows women are still significantly underrepresented in senior roles at private equity firms, despite recent improvement.
Over the course of a year, the proportion of senior positions at private equity buyout firms globally that are being held by women has only increased from 8.7% to 9.0%. For venture capital firms, the proportion has not increased and has held steady at 11.2%. Real estate and infrastructure fund managers have seen the most notable changes, with the proportion of female employees holding senior positions at real estate firms increasing by 1.5 percentage points and at infrastructure firms by 1.2 percentage points.
From a geographical perspective, North America-based firms have seen the most notable rise in the proportion of senior positions being held by female employees, increasing by 0.7 percentage points over the last year. While Asia-based fund managers retain the highest proportional representation of women in high-level roles, the proportion has actually fallen since March 2013 from 12.8% to 11.8%. European managers and those in regions outside of North America, Europe and Asia have seen negligible changes, both maintaining roughly 10% of senior roles held by women.
Small firms, those with one to five senior employees, have had a steadily declining proportion of high-level roles held by women, down from 9.2% in 2012 to 8.4% in 2014. At larger firms, however, the proportion has been steadily increasing. Firms with 11 to 20 senior employees, woman account for 11.5% of senior roles as of March 2014 compared to 9.3% in March 2012. For firms with more than 20 senior employees, the proportion has not changed from 11.9% last year.
Women in Private Equity: Geography
As of March 2014, private equity firms based in Asia have the highest proportion of women in senior roles, with an average of 11.8% of high-level roles held by women, as shown in Fig. 1. This is, however, a notable fall from 2013 when 12.8% of women in Asia held senior positions. The average proportion of senior positions held by women in North America- and Europe-based private equity firms is 11.0% and 9.7% respectively. North America saw a rise from 2013 when women held 10.3% of senior roles.
Women in Private Equity: Strategy
The primary investment strategy with the highest proportion of women employed in senior roles is real estate, with an average of 12.8%, as shown in Fig. 2. Real estate and infrastructure saw a slight rise in the proportion of women employed in senior roles, up from 11.3% and 10.5% respectively in 2013. Women account for 11.2% of senior roles in venture capital firms while buyout firms have the lowest percentage of women in senior roles, with an average of 9.0%, though it should be noted that this strategy is the only one to have seen a steady increase in the last two years.
Women in Private Equity: Firm Size
In firms with five or fewer people, women in senior positions account for 8.4% of senior employees. These firms have seen a decrease over the last two years in the ratio of women employed at higher levels. This figure increases as the number of employees at each firm rises, as shown in Fig. 3. At firms with six to ten employees, women account for 11.8% of senior positions. Women account for 11.5% of high-level employees at private equity firms with 11 to 20 staff members, which is an increase on 2012 and 2013. Firms with 21 or more employees have the highest proportion of senior female staff (11.9%).
Collectively, though these statistics do highlight some improvements in the levels of female representation in the industry, the overall proportion of leadership roles that women occupy in private equity is still notably low. Indeed, it is an issue that has been acknowledged by the industry and organizations across the world are actively working to push for change.