Industry executives say there are a number of rising female stars in private equity, poised to take their place in the senior management ranks.
Adams Street Partners LLC has several women, said Kelly Meldrum, Menlo Park, Calif.-based partner and head of primary investments. “Two of our three principals on our primary investment team are women — Morgan Webber (principal) in the U.S. and Doris Guo (principal) in Beijing,” she noted.
Some megafirms are “trying to be trend setters in a good way, even though there is a lot of work to do,” said Eric Zoller, co-founder and partner at Sixpoint Partners LLC, a New York investment bank working with middle-market private equity firms.
For example, half of the incoming associates in 2015 at Washington-based alternative investment firm The Carlyle Group are women, said Christopher Ullman, Carlyle spokesman. Carlyle's next generation of female executives includes Anita Balaji, principal, who joined the firm in 2006.
Fifty-eight percent of the associate class — made up of employees who have not yet earned an MBA — in Carlyle's U.S. buyout group are women, said Ms. Balaji. It was less than half of that last year, she said. And 18% of executives in the U.S. buyout group at a senior associate level or higher are women.
“Carlyle is making a big push to consider all the best candidates including women and minorities, and we have managed to start moving the numbers in the right direction,” she said. “We are not ready to declare victory yet, but it's getting better.”
Carlyle executives are working to make sure that the firm retains the junior executives by making the firm “a family-friendly and mom-friendly place through its policies and also from an attitudinal perspective,” Ms. Balaji said. “I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old and I am living proof that it can be done at Carlyle. I have lots of role models who are senior women at Carlyle. The head of my group is a working mom, too.”
For example, recently Carlyle's women's Employee Resource Group got the firm to increase paid maternity leave to 16 weeks from 12 weeks. “It bubbled up to the top from the staff at all levels. We made the business case this is an important retention and recruitment tool,” she said.
Suzanne Kriscunas, a managing partner in the Dallas office of private equity firm Riverside Co., said, “we have a number of women coming up through our organization. If you want to have diversity in your firm, whether women or racial diversity, you have to work hard to solicit candidates.”
Diversity in hiring has been a focus at Riverside. There were many fewer women working in private equity 15 years ago when Ms. Kriscunas joined the firm, she said. “It can be a challenging career because of the ... unpredictability of travel, the time demands. ... It's a career that requires long hours, weekend work and a lot of travel. No matter who you are, it can be challenging, and you have to want to continue with that,” Ms. Kriscunas said.
With women at all levels at Riverside, occasionally there will be all-female deal teams, which surprises business owners, she said.
At Adams Street Partners, there are women on the bench available to take over as senior executives retire. Kathy Wanner, a co-founder of and partner at Adams Street, plans to retire at the end of the year, and the firm has taken “Kathy's retirement as an opportunity to shift our coverage a bit across the primary investment team,” Ms. Meldrum said in an e-mail.
Included on that team is newly hired partner Saguna Malhotra, formerly managing director of private equity at Stanford Management Co., where she oversaw a $6 billion private equity portfolio, Ms. Meldrum said.
Consulting firms traditionally have had a higher percentage of women in their ranks than general partners. Forty percent of executives at Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based Hamilton Lane LLC are women, and it has been that way for years, said Andrea Kramer, managing director, investment committee member and head of the global fund investment team at the money management and consulting firm.
As for Hamilton Lane's firmwide pipeline of younger executives, “45% of Hamilton Lane's associates and senior associates are women,” Ms. Kramer said.