I’m not used to people opening up about their feelings at private equity conferences. It’s tough to get too vulnerable in an environment of suits, mini-muffins and panels about terms and conditions and manager seeding.
But that’s what happened at Buyouts Insider’s Family Office Connect event in New York last month.
Suna Said, founder of Sima Capital, gave the keynote talk at the event, where she discussed new technologies, opportunities in the market and the #metoo movement. Said had something of a different perspective than what usually gets discussed.
Said’s point was that as our society goes through the painful process of purging sexual harassers from the ranks of power, women should speak up about the men who have helped them in their careers.
She provided her own examples, including one sure to resonate with the private-investment crowd: KKR Co-Founder Henry Kravis gave her support and encouragement during a lunch at a time when she could have been potentially overwhelmed with the responsibilities of starting a new business (she had just launched Sima Capital) and nursing two babies she had back-to-back.
She commenced with what has quickly become one of my favorite quotes:
“I was struggling. …. He was so kind; he took me to lunch, I cried for most of it. He let his barriers down. He kept saying, ‘I really believe in you, I see your numbers, I see what you can do .’ He helped me with all these details and offered to be an adviser. Just knowing I had him in the wings, knowing I had his support, made such a difference. … It was enough to have him for those two hours, have him lean in and say, ‘I believe in you.’”
“A lot of people take the time [to help out], and it’s important to highlight that,” Said said.
I like Said’s angle here, and it’s not one I often consider. Men should be supporting women and other men as they work their way up the career ladder, in whatever industry. Men have historically held the reins of power, and even though things are very gradually equalizing (less so at the C-suite level), there is still much work to do.
A man supporting a woman in her career doesn’t seem like something that should be memorialized; in other words, that it is an occasion for celebration is an indication of just how broken our society is.
But — as if you need me to say this — what should be and what is, in this case, are separated by a very wide gulf. Anyone willing to build a bridge across that gaping chasm really should be held up as an example of the way the world could work. Kudos to Said for using her platform to do just that.