Tricia Glynn, a Partner at Advent International, shares best practices from Advent’s renowned DEI program and discusses how private equity (PE) firms can build an inclusive culture and incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into their value creation thesis. Tricia has been a PE investor for over 20 years and currently serves on boards such as Lululemon and Olaplex, and co-leads Advent’s North American Retail, Consumer and Leisure sector team.
DEI is not PE’s strength. According to Preqin’s Women in Alternative Assets report, only one-fifth of industry employees and 12.2% of senior roles were female in 2020. The situation for underrepresented minorities in the industry is dismal, with only 2% Hispanic and 1% Black venture capital (VC) investors in the US (Gompers and Kovvali, 2018). As of December 2020, nearly 50 buyout firms and investors had signed a global initiative launched by the Institutional Limited Partners Association (ILPA) to improve diversity among their ranks; a substantive and public step in the right direction, but as Tricia says: "The industry has a long way to go.”
A PE talent strategy must incorporate a proactive approach to DEI with a strong tone set “from the top,” ensuring diverse employees feel wanted, valued and sponsored. Incorporating a comprehensive DEI strategy addresses a firm’s commitment to elevating society while expanding its talent pool and creating new perspectives in investing. Advent views DEI as foundational to its business model, competitive positioning and talent strategy so it can be both the chosen buyer and chosen employer.
Five things PE can do to build DEI companies and cultures include:
Find, engage and learn from DEI experts in your network.
Hire experts (i.e., advisors, academic researchers) who understand your industry and know how to drive DEI culture.
Track data to identify your biggest problems, determine where you want to drive change and hold yourself accountable.
Give permission to speak openly: fear of “saying the wrong thing” holds leaders back from engaging in DEI so allowing well-intentioned people to learn in real time is important.
Hold everyone in the organization accountable.
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