Private Equity's Diversity Problem Isn't Getting Better

(Bloomberg) -- While private equity firms say recruiting women has become a top priority, the latest figures don’t really bear that out.

Women made up less than 18 percent of private equity employees as of February, a figure that’s unchanged since October 2017, according to a report last week from data provider Preqin. That proportion is lower than any other asset class they measured, including venture capital, hedge funds, private debt, real estate, infrastructure and natural resources.

Private equity isn’t the worst by much. The proportion of women at private debt firms hasn’t increased since 2017 either, remaining at 19.1 percent, while the number of women in the real estate industry decreased to 19.2 percent from 20.6 percent.

In January, one of buyout firm Permira’s few female partners announced her decision to retire at the end of the year after two decades at the company. In an interview at the time, she talked about how isolating being the only woman in the room can be.

“Getting more women in the industry is a good thing,” Cheryl Potter said in an interview at the time. “Diverse teams drive better decision making.”

The report also found:

  • Venture capital, hedge funds, infrastructure and natural resources have seen an increase in female employees.
  • Asia is the only region where more than one in ten senior employees at private equity firms are women.
  • The news is slightly better at a senior level, with women occupying 9.9 percent of the top roles at private equity firms, up from 9.4 percent in 2018.
  • Preqin generated the report by analyzing data from more than 280,000 people in the industry.

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