Over the years, the focus on diversity across the financial services industry has widely increased, while the shift change has been steady, many firms still struggle in the pursuit of parity. In the German private equity market the female to male ratio is on the incline but progress is slow.
We spoke with Anna-Luise Schug, a Senior Associate in the Bridgepoint Frankfurt office, to gain a deeper understanding of her experience in the private equity industry in Germany and her perception of the gender imbalance.
As a woman, do you feel like you must sacrifice more/work harder to be acknowledged the same way male colleagues are?
AS: No. I think a lot of progress has been made in recent years and, yes, maybe some women feel like this, but that does not reflect my experience. At least on my team, I’m valued in the same way as my male colleagues. If my male colleague and I perform the same, we get the same positive feedback – I don’t feel as if there’s a distinction here.
This industry continues to be very much male-dominated. Have you ever had to deal with rude comments, misogynistic remarks, etc.?
AS: Fortunately not. Even with my previous employer, I have always been part of a predominantly male team and am therefore quite used to working in such an environment. Even though the tone may be a bit more direct from time to time, I’ve never experienced a comment crossing the line of being rude or inappropriate.
Diversity and equal pay are still an on-going issue with no long-term solution insight yet. Does it upset you that a quota had to be introduced to support diversity in senior positions in this industry?
AS: Yes, it does, I’m not a big fan of quotas. Isn’t it sad that something like diversity requires such a big push? The fact it doesn’t happen organically is truly upsetting, as there are a lot of benefits in having diverse teams.
What would you tell other women that are toying with the thought of joining the private equity industry? Any advice for those who are starting their journeys in private equity?
AS: Don’t be afraid! There are many rumors regarding the private equity industry being a harsh male culture. Step up if you feel like you have something to say. Don’t be too shy. To think ‘I am afraid’ is the most common mistake made by women: often they are just too shy to speak up. If somebody is interested in combining strategic and financial perspectives, this is the right path to choose. It’s not easy work, but it’s extremely rewarding on so many levels.
The lack of women in senior roles reflects the historical structure of the industry. What work needs to happen to ensure that more women enter and stay in the sector?
AS: There is sadly so much truth to that. Not many women reflect the intake of the last few years. Going forward, it’s important that more progress around flexible working is happening as it’s particularly essential to women. In many cases women are still the primary caregivers for their children at home, even if they work in the industry. This vital aspect of life requires more flexibility in terms of place and times of working.
Do you have any concluding thoughts you’d like to end on?
AS: Private equity is a very rewarding area to work in and you can learn a lot. Women shouldn’t be afraid to join the industry. The combination of long-term strategy and financial aspects makes it an exciting industry to be a part of. I’d recommend without hesitation and encourage every woman toying with the thought of entering to not be afraid of doing so.
If you’re considering Private Equity as your next career step, get in touch – we’d love to help.