Carlyle makes diversity a priority with new hire

The private funds manager hired Kara Helander from BlackRock to lead the effort for a more diverse and inclusionary workplace.

The Carlyle Group has hired a former BlackRock executive as their chief diversity officer, who will lead the effort to create a more diverse and inclusionary workplace.

Kara Helander joined the firm for the newly created position, and Carlyle said she will focus on attracting and retaining top talent as well as increasing board diversity at Carlyle’s portfolio companies. Before Carlyle, Helander was a managing director and global head of diversity and inclusion at BlackRock for 10 years.

Carlyle itself still has work to do in terms of diversity and inclusion. Only 17 percent of their managing directors and partners are women in the US and globally. Focusing on senior positions in the US, which include principals and partners, Carlyle says the percentage on women is higher — 23 percent, compared with 9 percent for the industry average.

Gender inequality and diversity will be among the topics discussed at the forthcoming Women in Private Equity Forum, happening between 28-29 November at the Waldorf Hilton, London.

Within the US corporate private equity practice, diversity — by gender and race — among two-year associates is expected to rise to 63 percent for the 2019 class, from more than 50 percent in each of the past five years.

“A diverse and inclusive culture is a competitive advantage that enables us to attract strong talent across geographies, strategies and functions,” said Carlyle co-chief executive Kewsong Lee and Glenn Youngkin said in a statement.

The private equity industry has long had an issue with diversity. Sister publication Infrastructure Investor reported in June that a lack of workplace diversity contributed to The Blackstone Group and Brookfield Asset Management being passed up for a $50 million infrastructure allocation by Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund.

The Institutional Limited Partners Association has taken initiative to raise awareness on diversity and inclusion to fund managers. Last week, it released a due diligence questionnaire to include general partner-level diversity issues and releasing a code of ethics for GPs to use as guideline for “defining, reporting, investigating and disciplining harassment, discrimination and violence in the workplace.”

Hiring Helander isn’t the first instance of Carlyle working toward making diversity a priority. In 2013 the firm established a diversity and inclusion council to help it foster a diverse corporate environment.

“I look forward to working with business leaders across the organization to deepen the company’s culture of inclusion for the benefit of Carlyle, its employees and investors,” Helandar said in the same statement.

Helander will be based in Washington DC. She has 18 years of experience in the diversity and inclusion field and also founded the Science of Diversity & Inclusion Initiative, a coalition of select companies and researchers that describes itself as focused on “accelerating diversity, inclusivity, and belonging in the workplace.”