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Deal breakers

by Silvia Saccardi 16 January 2023

Mary Gay Townsend, founder and managing partner of Norgay Partners, and Gail McManus, founder and managing partner of PER, share their expertise on how to address the female talent supply-and-demand imbalance from both sides of the coin. Outlined below are some key tips for GPs looking to diversify their teams, as well as tips for women looking to access senior-level positions.

The talent hunt: Tips for hiring managers

  • First impressions count – Firms often encounter women pulling out of the application process after the first interview because they don’t deem the company to be a good match. Due to the supply-and-demand imbalance, senior-level female candidates will likely have several other first interviews lined up. This means you need to go the extra mile to accentuate your core values. Do your values represent a welcoming and career-developing environment? Is the first-stage interviewer a key representative of your firm’s fundamentals?
  • Role models – A good way to showcase that you value a diverse team is to promote mentoring schemes. Having a visible role model in the workplace can be helpful for candidates to envisage where they can aspire to be. This is also a good way of reaching out to younger female talent to help them pave their way to the top. A mentor can assist future generations in accessing operational job opportunities in private equity by guiding them down accessible routes and qualifications.
  • Flexible family planning – Without proper family support mechanisms in place, you risk turning off a lot of women from staying for the long term. Offering adequate compensation packages, planning around parental leave and flexibility around childcare responsibilities are all key considerations for women balancing family responsibilities with career development. McManus adds: “It's about an organisation understanding and being supportive of a particular period of your career – at all stages of your career, for that matter. It needs to be supportive and understanding that we all have different needs at different times.”
  • Access the talent pool – A great way to gain access to a wider talent pool is to talk to women on parental leave. It can be a great time for women to reflect on their career path and how they want the next stage of their life to pan out. With a bit of forward planning, this can be a way of generating diversity in your team with candidates who have had time to reassess their priorities.

A key takeaway from Townsend is that culture matters: “One thing that speaks to a firm’s culture is the way that offers are communicated and presented to the candidate. Managers should think about how the core Cs of negotiating compensation – cash, carry, clarity, communication and consistency – will reflect the firm’s culture. Candidates will notice when firms have poor communication around compensation and it can affect their enthusiasm for the opportunity. Early and open conversations will lead to a more positive outcome for both parties.”

The job hunt: Tips for female candidates

  • Value over effort – Focus on demonstrating how you add value to the team rather than how hard you work. Achieving in silence means only you know how important you are in delivering and achieving positive profitable results for your firm. Make sure you vocalise how your achievements have driven the company forward. This will not go unnoticed.
  • Language is a weapon – Remove CV or interview examples where you have ‘helped’ or ‘assisted’ other colleagues. Instead, readjust them to demonstrate what you specifically did and the outcome that occurred as a result. Emphasising how you deliver and take leadership in projects will ensure you are perceived as proactive rather than reactive. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing what you do, but more about readjusting the focal point.
  • The art of negotiation – Far from an exact science, negotiating your compensation should be a gradual process. Planning for conversations rather than waiting for them to happen organically is the key to success. If you save your compensation discussion until the day you have it, it is too late. Townsend adds that in a job-interview setting, “The candidate that neglects the initial compensation discussion early on puts themselves at risk of misalignment. It is important to lay out your expectations from the beginning so that firms can factor in this information. If the candidate keeps coming back with additional asks, it muddies the waters and makes things more complicated.”
  • Markers in the sand – Throughout the financial year, make it clear when you have achieved something substantial to those around you. This can be done in a comfortable manner. For example, your boss congratulates you on an impact you had on a certain project. You could respond: “Yes, that should be good for my bonus shouldn’t it?” That way, you have informally, casually demonstrated that you are aware of your own value within your workplace. When it comes to your appraisal, your demands won’t come as a shock.
  • Market research – There is nothing wrong with calling headhunters to benchmark your salary, particularly if you plan on staying at your company. Your boss will appreciate your loyalty if you begin an open conversation about compensation comparisons across the market. You’re carrying out valuable market research that instigates a wider conversation about your own compensation. However, avoid using this information as a weapon, as confrontation will get you nowhere.

A key takeaway from McManus is around the need to find your voice: “In an operations role, you have to learn how to articulate the value that you bring to the job. You never come to anybody's attention when what you're doing is a great job stopping things going wrong. It's about the value you bring and your ability to articulate that value. Otherwise, the only person that knows you are doing a great job is you.”

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