Why create a women’s club within Ardian?
The role of women in the private equity sector is progressing slowly but surely: according to the 2021 study on gender diversity in private equity conducted in partnership with Deloitte and France Invest, women represented 27% of investment teams in 2020, compared to 17% in 2010. There is still a long way to go – especially in the role of partner, with women representing less than one in five partners in management companies – but it proves that the number of women in the sector is growing. This shift is encouraged by investors, with increasing numbers now giving more thought to the gender equality and diversity polices of funds before investing.
So why create a women’s club at Ardian? “To speed things up” is the confident reply from Stéphanie Grace, Head of Brand & Communications and co-Chair of the Ardian Women’s Club. “We formed the club two and a half years ago to speed up the process and strengthen the voice of women”. “At that time, we wanted to give a decisive boost to provide women with the tools they needed to boldly take their place.” adds Gaëlle Brouard, Head of Finance, Ardian Customized Solutions, and also Club co-Chair. Since its creation, Ardian Women’s Club has therefore sought to strengthen the notion of parity and help accelerate the empowerment of women in the workplace.
“The priority is to help women understand that they all have their place in the world of finance”, explains Lise Fauconnier, Managing Director, Ardian Buyout and ambassador to the association Level 20, who refers to the “need for clarification”. Women are still unsure about applying for positions in private equity as they have trouble seeing themselves working in this sector: “Is this an environment in which I can develop both professionally and as a mother? Will I be listened to or just heard? Will I be able to access positions of responsibility and climb the career ladder?”. Ardian Women’s Club seeks to provide answers to all these questions by deconstructing certain pre-conceived ideas and demonstrating that women can succeed and prosper in private equity, provided they receive guidance and support!
I have worked in the private equity sector for over 20 years and am pleased to see that many other women are joining our ranks. Even though we’ve made progress, there is still much to do to achieve Ardian’s ambitious goals.
Consideration, mutual assistance and support: the fundamentals of Ardian Women’s Club
“I was often the only female team member in the room”, recalls Marion Calcine, Chief Investment Officer in the Ardian Infrastructure team, who joined Ardian 15 years ago. While this did not adversely affect her, she is pleased to see the situation changing.
It’s good to see women helping each other, sharing their experience and advice and talking confidently. I would’ve liked to have been able to do that at the start of my career.
Ardian Women’s Club was set up to satisfy this need by proposing mentoring programs and workshops.
Female mentoring enables Ardian’s women to be coached by their female colleagues – in France or internationally – over a one-year period or occasionally on specific issues (empowerment, negotiation, public speaking, women’s leadership, parenthood, etc.). Participants can, for example, learn how to better communicate on their achievements – a key ability which needs to be developed further, according to Sara Huang, Managing Director in the Fund of Funds team in New York: “Women still refrain from putting themselves forward, and consider that their success is down to a joint effort. However, to be successful, women must also know how to make themselves heard and showcase their personal contributions”. Carole Barnay, Senior Managing Director, Ardian Co-Investment, is of the same opinion and believes that women must have “greater confidence to express themselves. To achieve this, we need to coach the young generation and provide it with the keys to empowerment, which combines confidence, esteem, ambition and authority”.
In addition to the mentoring sessions, workshops are regularly organized in groups of ten. For Jessica du Vivier, Human Resources Development Senior Manager at Ardian, “these programs give women the opportunity to speak freely about the challenges they face. These key moments promote the sharing of good practices, information and experiences”. Ardian’s female professionals can now also interact on the Club’s LinkedIn page, which displays content highlighting gender equality in the private equity business.
Other key opportunities for discussion: the internal and external conferences organized by Ardian Women’s Club throughout the year. Inspiring women – Dominique Senequier, President of Ardian, Isabelle Hudon, Canadian ambassador in France, Fleur Pellerin, former Minister and CEO of Korelya Capital – are invited to talk about their career and the personal and professional challenges that they had to overcome. “The aim of these conferences is to show women that anything is possible and propose new role models”, explains Amandine Maquet, Finance Project Director within Ardian Fund Finance, who adds that “these conferences are also an opportunity for women to come together and network”.
Specific training courses for women, high value sponsorship programs, promotion of private equity among female students….the list of initiatives rolled out by the Club is long.
We mustn’t hold back. We must do our utmost to make it easier for women to access and integrate the private equity industry, starting with investment businesses.
A long-term commitment, which will only end when gender equality has become the norm: “We will only truly accomplish our goal when diversity is no longer a topic of discussion in the workplace and it will simply be self-evident. We will get there in the end but there is still some work to be done”.