As a senior portfolio manager in private equity at Exelon Corp, Chrissie Pariso is a limited partner on a mission.
Pariso has been frustrated that GPs and other LPs give the idea of diversity only lip service, particularly when it comes to women. Pariso for several years has been one of the only LPs who formally asks her GPs about their family leave policies. Family leave, for both men and women, is one factor Pariso says could help make PE firms more attractive places for women to work.
Women are not well-represented in the industry. Women hold an average of 15.3 percent of senior roles at larger firms with more than 20 senior employees, according to a March 2016 Preqin study. That number shrinks to 9.6 percent at smaller firms, with five or fewer senior staffers.
Pariso blames the gender disparity on factors ranging from firms having inadequate, or even zero, family-leave policies, to lazy recruitment efforts that favor the status quo.
“If GPs continue just to hire from the same backgrounds, same schools, same network, we aren’t going to make progress on diversity,” said Pariso, who’s been in private equity on both the GP and LP side for nine years.
“We have to do more to educate younger women that a career in private equity is interesting; we have to do more to build teams with diverse backgrounds; and we have to do more to mentor women in the industry.”
To accomplish these objectives, Pariso teamed up with another PE veteran, Shannon Zoller, founder of Tephra Advisors, to launch a private equity career event, “Women in Alternatives Career Forum.” The forum, launched on behalf of nonprofit Women’s Association of Venture and Equity, is scheduled for Nov. 7 at the tony Chicago Club in the Windy City.
The conference will feature an as yet to be determined keynote speaker, roundtable panel discussions with industry luminaries and a career expo.
“So many managers that I speak with say the reason there isn’t diversity is because not that many women apply,” Pariso said. “We aren’t going to see significant progress unless firms start broadening their funnel and bring women in from the junior levels.”
In addition to college students, other targeted attendees are MBA and post-MBA students, investment bankers, management consultants, accountants, lawyers or those who simply want to learn more about the alternative-investing space.
The deadline to sign up is Sept. 30, 2017. The fee for general attendees is $25; the first 50 who apply and are accepted can attend on a complimentary basis.
Action Item: Those interested in attending can apply by sending resumes to Danielle Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org. Prospective sponsors should contact either Shannon Zoller at email@example.com or Chrissie Pariso at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Group of women standing together in the circle and holding raised hands. Photo courtesy izusek/E+/Getty Images