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Female PE execs look to close gender gap

Newly launched industry group Level 20 is hoping to boost the percentage of European women in senior private equity roles fourfold in the next five years.

Some of European private equity’s leading women have come together to launch new nonprofit group Level 20, aiming to inspire women to join and succeed in the industry.

The London-based group has a goal to ensure that women account for 20 percent of senior professionals across the European private equity industry by 2020, according to a press release.

Women hold only 5 percent of senior industry roles today, according to the European Private Equity & Venture Capital Association. Fewer women than men enter private equity, and only a small proportion progress to take on leadership roles, Level 20 says.

The group has launched a mentoring program for women mid-career, which will provide them with access to guidance from more senior men and women that they may not otherwise receive, Level 20 chair and co-founder Hanneke Smits told Private Equity International's sister publication pfm.

The program will start with 20 mentees and scale up over time. Level 20 will also host events and hopes to become a resource centre for the industry in Europe and beyond.

“We believe that gender diversity at senior levels in the private equity industry will lead to superior investment performance,” said Smits in a statement. “Studies focusing on publicly-listed companies have observed a correlation between gender diversity in senior teams and higher returns on equity; we see no reason why the private equity asset class should be different.”

Level 20 was formed and seeded by 12 senior women representing both GPs and LPs – Smits, Impetus PEF trustee and Sofina SA non-executive director; HarbourVest Partners managing director Kathleen Bacon; Bain Capital managing director Cécile Belaman; 3i Group partner Jennifer Dunstan; JP Morgan Asset Management managing director Dana Haimoff; Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan director Lori Hall-Kimm; Cinven partner Alexandra Hess; Horsley Bridge International managing director Kathryn Mayne; Graphite Capital senior partner Emma Osborne; Alcyon Holding managing partner Christina Pamberg; Pantheon partner Helen Steers; and Keyhaven Capital managing partner Sasha van de Water.