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Women in Private Markets Virtual Conference

11 February 2021 Jocelyn Lewis

Recently, IHS Markit participated at the Women in Private Markets Virtual Conference hosted by PEI. The panel sessions covered similar topics to those discussed at previous conferences we spoke at this year such as market volatility stemming from COVID-19, improved documentation for lenders, relatively tight spreads for illiquid investments, opportunistic deal structures, anticipation for more distressed investments and the evolving role of technology to support the investment lifecycle.

However, additional themes that were prevalent throughout the conference were diversity, inclusion, and leadership of women within private markets. We gathered with some of the conference participants to engage in a conversation about these subjects and exchange stories.

Some of the questions discussed were:

  • How diverse is your business?
  • Do you notice diversity and inclusion in your workplace?
  • Is there an emphasis on hiring a more diverse and inclusive team?
  • How do you bring the real you to work?

Participants remarked that as they transitioned from a junior role to a senior role, they experienced the most pronounced unconscious bias. Successful organizations, that recognize this impact at such a critical transition point, offer sponsorship and mentorship programs to help women succeed at this juncture and not fall victim to the unconscious bias that exists on the path to senior leadership.

We took this concept a step further to discuss promotion from within. The younger, millennial generation is known for often moving between organizations, which is a behavioral shift from older generations who associate constant movement between organizations with disloyalty. Interestingly, from the younger generation's point of view, they are seeking a sense of belonging and the potential for career advancement. Junior women feel discouraged with their potential for career advancement within an organization where they witness the recruitment of senior women from outside the organization for seemingly lateral moves instead of promotion from within. Senior women benefit from recruitment whereby as a new employee they feel chosen, valued, obtain better pay and achieve more visible roles. All generations agreed that through mentorship, sponsorship, the close of the gender pay gap and a defined promotion process both employees and employers will benefit from a home-grown pipeline of talent that is visible and supportive women as they advance into senior roles.

Fortunately, the group agreed that women are supportive of other women within the workforce. The older generations commented that previously, a healthy work-life balance was unattainable in senior roles, but vast strides have been taken for far better parental-leave and flexible work schedules that alleviate this concern. The mid-level and younger generations support more women in the workforce and celebrate the fact that having both a family and professional success is achievable, especially as their partners help them with the mental load (Look up The Mental Load if you are unfamiliar with it).

We also discussed how traditional gender roles are becoming more fluid and how diversity is celebrated by bringing our whole selves to work, now more than ever, not being ashamed about their lives outside of work. One woman shared a story about how ~17approximately 20 years ago, after she had a child, there was a negative connotation associated with displaying a photo of her son on her desk, although her male colleagues had photos of their children at their desks. She felt that her photo, coupled with her traditional role as the primary care giver, implied that she would not have competing priorities when it came to balancing motherhood and work compared to her male peers, who did not have that same stigma associated with displaying photos of their children. Thankfully, in today's work environment, especially with everyone working remotely, babies and even fur-babies are regularly displayed proudly.

Through "leaning in", educating, becoming aware and voicing an opinion, women are stepping up as leaders in both official and unofficial capabilities. Another story was shared that highlighted a female director that interjected in a conversation while out at a bar with colleagues. The topic of the conversation was golf. After looking around to see how many of her team members seemed uninterested in the conversation, she suggested changing the conversation to a more inclusive topic. The team did so with ease.

We also pointed out that in a more diverse workplace, for inclusion to occur, we need to start educating our children to be unbiased and think outside of the stereotypes. By the time they enter the workforce, they will then hopefully have less of an unconscious bias. Given that these topics are important to us, it is our responsibility, in this case as the minority, to:

  • Start the conversation and push for inclusion. Join internal advocacy programs and be a voice for someone that may not feel comfortable having one. Or just listen, learn and educate others.
  • Speak up if you see direct or unconscious bias taking place. Look at it as educational, not confrontational.
  • Find mentors and sponsors to both learn from and educate, at the same time. Create that relationship where you can openly discuss real-time issues and make suggestions how to address some of the challenges we all face.

Interestingly, one woman pointed out that her male colleagues are more open and vulnerable while working in a remote environment than when working in an office together. Perhaps they feel more comfortable not physically being in the same space as a woman? Regardless, it is great to see that bringing the workplace home creates a sense of openness and team bonding. People feel that "we're in this together" culture allows colleagues to be kinder and more empathetic to one another.

And finally, even with a globally represented group, everyone was acutely aware that the United States just elected the first woman vice president, which regardless of your political views is a historic achievement. All agreed that there is evidence within their organizations of strides in the right direction to disrupt traditional gender biases and improve inclusion, diversity and the trajectory for future woman leaders.

Posted 11 February 2021 by Jocelyn Lewis, Executive Director, Private Debt Strategy, Financial Services, S&P Global Market Intelligence

IHS Markit provides industry-leading data, software and technology platforms and managed services to tackle some of the most difficult challenges in financial markets. We help our customers better understand complicated markets, reduce risk, operate more efficiently and comply with financial regulation.

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