Spotlight: 10 women in private equity making waves, and the industry’s glaring gap between women and men at the deal partner level

Saluting rockstar women making strides in private equity


Just in time for Women’s History Month, we’ve got a bunch of awesome content for you this morning: our big reveal of 10 standout women everybody ought to know in private equity, a deep dive into the industry’s remarkable lack of women, plus a look at what some of 2020’s featured lady-dealmakers have been up to over the last year.

First, a quick thanks to everyone who reached out to nominate their colleagues or peers in the industry. The response and eagerness to get involved tops prior years by a long haul, which if nothing else is encouraging.

Alas, this year’s list of diverse and impressive women helping shape the future of private equity includes: Siguler Guff’s Sara Bowdoin, Prelude Growth Partners’ Neda Daneshzadeh, Vista Equity’s Shannon Bracken, GenNx360 Capital Partners’ Daphne Dufresne, Level Equity’s Sarah Sommer, Blackstone’s Anushka Sunder, TPG’s Katherine Wood, Aquiline Capital Partners’ Christina Walsh, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan’s Michelle Lung, Advent International’s Lauren Young.

One takeaway – each woman has a unique story.

Daphne Dufresne of GenNx360 says her more than two-decade career in private equity owes much to “a no-nonsense mom” who expected big things from her daughters. A Haitian immigrant, Dufresne’s mother put in long hours on a Wall Street clerical job but still found time to give her kids home-cooked meals and help with homework. “Mom made sure we got straight A’s,” Dufresne says. “But she backed up her high expectations of us by working very hard herself.”

Elsewhere, Blackstone healthcare investor Anushka Sunder – who grew up wanting to be a doctor before making a pivot – tells us that there isn’t one path or style that everyone needs to follow in private equity. “My personality is probably more lighthearted than many people in finance and it works for me. You don’t have to conform to a particular stereotype of what you think people ought to be.”

Check out all 10 profiles on PE Hub or Buyouts here. And read on PE Hub or Buyouts what some of 2020’s winner’s – from firms including Carlyle, Leonard Green & Partners and MiddleGround Capital – have accomplished over the last 12 months.

Dearth of women: While it’s important to spotlight the rising stars and women that have successfully climbed through the ranks in private equity, it goes without saying the industry has a long way to go.

My colleague (and former cubemate) Chris Witkowsky spent several weeks hashing it out with numerous industry sources to get to the root of what is now characterized as a longstanding problem and slow progress.

One thing he found: Firms not acknowledging the unique challenges faced by their talented female dealmakers, especially when and if they decide to start a family, is part of the explanation for why many drop off the partner track right around mid-career.
In particular, one glaring gap that still exists in private equity is at the deal partner level, including on investment committees. Even the biggest firms, which have led the way in improving their processes for more inclusive recruiting, continue to have senior deal leadership dominated by men.

“Unless a woman founded the firm, it’s pretty rare to see a woman as a voting member of the investment committee,” says Andrea Auerbach, global head of private equity at consultancy Cambridge Associates.

Check out Chris’s must-read feature on Buyouts.

That’s it for today! Have a great week, everybody, and in meantime, hit me up with feedback, tips or just to say hello at