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Women in PE: unchanged in numbers; only 1 in 20 is managing partner: Preqin

Women remain underrepresented in the private equity industry, and of those who hold senior positions, the fewest — about 1 in every 20 — hold the title of managing partner, according to a report from Preqin.

Women account for 18 percent of PE employees, the lowest proportion of any alternative-asset class, Preqin said. And the figure is unchanged from Preqin’s November 2017 report.

In venture capital, female executives comprise 21.1 percent of the industry in 2018, up from 20.5 percent the year before. Hedge funds also showed small gains with women coming in at 19.3 percent in2018 against 18.6 percent in 2017.

Globally, women comprise 19 percent of employees at Asia PE firms and 17 percent at European shops, the report said.

“It is well-known that the representation of women in the alternative-assets industry is relatively low,” said Michelle Stern, senior vice president of market development at Preqin. “However, it is particularly striking that women still hold fewer than one in five private equity jobs, and that that proportion has remained unchanged since 2017.”

In private equity women account for 31 percent of junior employees worldwide but just 10 percent of senior roles, Preqin said.

Investment teams have the lowest rate of female representation: 22 percent of junior investment roles but only 9 percent of senior roles, for an overall proportion of 13 percent.

For those women who do achieve senior positions, they are most likely chief financial officers and least likely to be managing partners. A quarter of senior women — the highest proportion — are CFOs while just 5 percent are managing partners.

The data is nearly unchanged from 2017, when Preqin said women constituted 9 percent of senior-level executives and 22 percent of mid-level execs.

In 2017 Preqin found that most women in PE could be found in investor relations — and that remains true two years later. More than half (53 percent) of women are in IR and they hold 63 percent of junior roles. Only a third (34 percent) of senior IR roles are held by women, Preqin said.

One reason for the low numbers is that many PE firms have small staffs, said William Clarke, a Preqin spokesman, in an emailed response to questions. Larger firms tend to have more female representation and more support mechanisms to foster female employees and advance their careers, Clarke said.

Many PE firms also remain relatively closed shops despite pressure from groups promoting female representation in finance and greater scrutiny from the #metoo movement, he said.

“Ultimately, there has not been a concerted push for progress across the industry. So without outside influence, the rate of change has been slow,” Clarke said.

Action Item: For more information, contact Clarke by emailing him at william.clarke@preqin.com