Laura Held has vivid memories of what it was like for her when she began her career in a male-dominated industry.
“I remember very well how I felt when I was starting out in finance,” she recalls. “As a young, junior female, it felt very uncomfortable. As I gained more experience and confidence, I changed my mindset. Now I see being female in an industry that still skews heavily male as a huge opportunity to stand out, build authentic connections in a different way and provide unique perspectives.”
Using her experiences as a catalyst, Held has made it her mission to champion women with clear, decisive action. Last year, she led the Los Angeles-based buyout shop’s investment in Answer Lab, a woman-founded and owned UX research firm, and helped establish a board of directors with a commitment to diversity. She also spearheaded Shamrock’s investment in Highwire PR, a communications firm founded by female executives.
“As I gained more experience and confidence, I changed my mindset. Now I see being female in an industry that still skews heavily male as a huge opportunity to stand out”
Held, who joined Shamrock in 2012 and became a partner eight years later, has been involved in internal and industry-wide initiatives to increase female representation in PE. One of the most significant includes the founding of Women in Media Investing, which provides education and networking opportunities to junior and mid-level female investment professionals. Launched in partnership with KKR, WIMI held its inaugural event last July and is planning additional events and activities for 2023.
Other highlights of Held’s tenure at Shamrock include leading the successful sale of Wpromote, a digital marketing agency, to Zelnick Media Capital, and steering AnswerLab to be part of the Ownership Works program, a nonprofit committed to ownership and increased prosperity for all employees.
And, if you need further proof of Held’s impressive credentials, she is one of Shamrock’s seven partners and a member of the firm’s executive committee. She also sits on six boards of Shamrock’s portfolio companies, which include Adweek, for which she served as an interim CEO in 2021 when the advertising trade publication was scouting for a new CEO.
Being a mom of two young boys while working as a partner, Held, who has an MBA from Harvard, is proud that she’s been able to balance the work/life dynamic. “This continues to be a constant juggling act, but it is very rewarding for me personally,” says the 40-year-old Held.
Prior to joining Shamrock, Held worked as an associate in the corporate strategy group at The Walt Disney Company. She is also a former associate at Carlyle Group. It’s quite a step up from her first job, in which she worked as a part-time sales associate at a shoe store in Cincinnati, where she grew up.
Asked what would surprise people the most to learn about her, Held said she’s Canadian.
“My parents are from Vancouver and I was born in Toronto,” she reveals. “My dad was transferred to the US for work when I was in kindergarten. Initially, they thought we would be here for a few years but we got settled and never left. I became an American citizen when I was 17.”
The Great White North’s loss is clearly America’s gain.