Not-for-profit organisation Level 20 was established in 2015 with the aim of supporting firms to attract, promote and retain more diverse talent in European private equity. CEO Pam Jackson outlines the DE&I progress that Level 20 has seen and helped facilitate to date, and explains why there is more work to be done.
What progress has the PE industry made on gender diversity in the last few years?
The industry has, no doubt, made substantial progress over the past five years, and, post-pandemic, we have seen an acceleration of DE&I as a strategic imperative across firms.
Leaders recognise that diversity, culture and inclusive leadership are the essential ingredients to a thriving organisation and are embracing practices to support women in their careers.
Over the past few months, Level 20 has produced an analysis of gender representation across European private equity, which has shown a significant uptick in hiring women at the junior levels – so firms are bringing in diversity into their firms.
However, representation at senior levels for women in investment roles remains stubbornly low.
Which areas require further attention?
Attract, retain and promote – these are the essential stages to ensuring women reach senior levels. We see from Level 20’s European analysis that, at the junior level, firms are doing well and are attracting and recruiting women. However, the issue lies in retaining and promoting women until they reach senior levels.
The industry needs to collectively work on creating inclusive cultures, personified by leaders actively leading by example, which is key for the promotion and retention of women in private markets. While firms recognise the value of diversity, they are struggling to ensure continuous support for women throughout their careers in the industry.
Especially with the transition in work culture, firms must embrace a more flexible approach to continue to support diverse talent.
How receptive has the industry been to Level 20’s efforts to improve gender diversity?
In May, we onboarded our 100th sponsor and we now have over 4,000 members. This is a milestone for Level 20 and one that actively demonstrates support for gender diversity across the industry.
What are the priorities for Level 20 over the year ahead?
We will aim to continue driving the debate by launching the latest Level 20 European analysis. Through comparing gender representation in private equity across the 12 European chapters, the analysis will seek to provide insight on the cultural drivers impacting gender diversity across the region, and ultimately guide firms’ efforts to retain and promote women to senior levels.
We are always working on identifying more networking opportunities for our members, will continue to support our sponsor firms in driving positive change and, last but not least, showcase the industry’s role models.