New Level 20 research discovers narrowing of career paths amongst women entering Private Equity


London, 6th July 2018

Banking and strategic consulting backgrounds are the most common feeder industries for women now entering private equity, while more senior women came from diverse backgrounds, reveals a new study commissioned by Level 20, the not-for-profit body established to inspire women to join and succeed in the private equity industry.

Significantly more women in junior investment roles in private equity have joined the industry from banking or consulting compared with their more senior female colleagues. Almost 40% of women in senior investment roles entered private equity from a range of backgrounds including consumer industries, engineering, healthcare and law.

These findings suggest that there has been in the past decade or two a narrowing of the routes to entry to private equity for women, and this risks sharpening the industry’s gender divide, says Level 20.

The research, conducted by a team from the Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre at University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, led by Professor Sucheta Nadkarni, is the first ever in-depth study of the career paths and personality traits of professionals working in European private equity.

Its findings are based on the responses of more than 700 men and women working in private equity to questions regarding their educational background, career trajectory, personal circumstances and psychological profile. The team used the data to assess key differences between the genders at varying levels of seniority in the private equity industry.

Further key findings from the Cambridge Judge Business School research include:

  • Senior women in large private equity houses have worked at more firms in their careers than men, although moves between firms remain infrequent overall
  • Significantly more women in senior investment roles are single, have partners in full-time employment and have fewer children than their male counterparts, with the gender difference in single status more pronounced at smaller firms. These differences disappear for women in junior roles.
  • There were no gender differences in the “psychological profile” and educational qualifications of investment professionals. There appears to be a private equity ‘type’ that transcends gender – attributes include being resilient and co-operative, and having the ability to find a balance between making gains and avoiding losses when making investment decisions.

Following publication of these findings, Level 20 will closely examine the findings before embarking on a series of initiatives designed to address the issues thrown up by the research.

Jeryl Andrew, chief executive of Level 20, commented: “We are delighted that so many people in the private equity industry took the time to complete this extensive survey, the findings of which will be invaluable as we continue to try to meet our goal of ensuring greater numbers of women join and succeed in the industry. In particular, the research suggests that the range of professions developing people who move into private equity is narrowing and, if we are to combat a lack of gender diversity, this is something that needs to change.”

Professor Sucheta Nadkarni, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with Level 20 for this important and much needed research in private equity. The research finds no gender difference in psychological profile and educational qualifications of investment professionals. Women are often considered to be held back in certain professions by tendencies such as lack of assertiveness or excessive agreeableness, but these findings show that these excuses simply don’t apply to private equity and that other factors such as family circumstances instead account for gender differences.”


For further information please contact:

Level 20

Matthew Goodman/Gina Bell/Fanni Bodri, Greenbrook Communications

P: +44 (0) 207 952 2000

E: [email protected]

Cambridge University Business School

Charles Goldsmith

P: +44 (0) 7912 162279

E: [email protected]

About Level 20:

Level 20 is a not-for-profit organisation formed and seeded in 2015 by 12 senior women active in private equity representing GPs and LPs. It aims to work with the leaders of the European private equity industry to attract and retain more women across the industry, such that they will account for 20% of senior professionals. It has financial support from 45 GP firms covering a broad range of the industry including venture capital, growth capital, buy-out and global alternative asset managers.

About Cambridge Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre:

The mission of the Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre (WLC) at the Cambridge Judge Business School is to become a hub for global thought leadership in making the changes needed to foster a gender-balanced workforce around the world. Since its inception in 2015 (as the Women’s Leadership Initiative), research has been a core area of focus. The Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre is quickly becoming a world-class research group within the University of Cambridge. The centre produces cutting edge, academically rigorous and practically relevant research focused on gender issues in businesses. The aim of such research is to both generate significant academic knowledge and to provide valuable guidance to organisations on new and innovative ways to unleash female leadership potential in their organisations and industries. By bringing students, corporations and policy makers more closely together we disseminate our findings and create the forums to translate ideas into practical solutions.