The issue of gender diversity in the corporate world has taken on increased urgency. Even as women reach new heights in terms of education – the average adult woman in the US is now more likely to be a college graduate than a man, according to the Census Bureau – they remain underpaid compared to their male counterparts and underrepresented in boardrooms.
Toppan Vintage, a trusted financial printing and communications company, in partnership with Mergermarket, is pleased to present the newest edition of M&A Pulse newsletter on the importance of gender diversity at the dealmaking table. In order to highlight the issue, Toppan Vintage commissioned Mergermarket to interview five women who are helping lead the way.
Toppan Vintage question: In what ways do you think better representation of women in dealmaking would improve the industry? Leading industry experts weigh in...
Rita-Anne O’Neill, Partner, Sullivan & Cromwell says: The question is an interesting one, because in some ways, people find it insulting that women would need to have a business case for having better representation. It's just the right thing to do. On the Women in M&A Task Force, we're putting together a presentation to help law firms, especially smaller ones, develop programs to retain women, and we had this very debate at our last meeting. Ultimately, law firms and private equity funds are rational, economic institutions, so I think you need to make it clear to them that there is an advantage to having more women in their workforce. If a culture of diversity makes good business sense, then institutions are willing to devote more resources to diversity initiatives, and everyone benefits.
At S&C, for example, fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment is essential to providing our clients with the highest level of service. First of all, law firms that are more diverse are able to recruit the top talent with a range of backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences. If you have a diversity of viewpoints, you wind up addressing complicated legal issues with greater creativity, which allows us to offer the best solutions for our clients. Also, and most importantly in the M&A space, different kinds of people can be the right fit to negotiate with a particularly difficult person. Someone else's personality might be better with a different difficult person. So just by having a variety of people, you wind up giving your clients the best chance of achieving the best results, because you have more options in terms of who will click with the other side.
Kerry Crandell, President & Founder, Women of M&A Network (WoMAN) adds: Clearly, fostering diversity is key if you want a competitive advantage in today's world. There have been numerous studies and articles to support this, and specifically with women, we bring unique qualities to the table. One quality is that women are generally more open to collaboration. I think we tend to have deeper, more authentic relationships, and I think we approach things with a more inclusive perspective. In my relationships and experiences, we also tend to hold a longer-term view of things.
Some research has shown that women tend to have significantly higher emotional intelligence as well, and I really believe that the most effective leaders, whether they are men or women, are the ones who demonstrate emotional and social intelligence. Once we start having a seat at the table and having more impact and influence, I think it will start proving the results and the value that diversity brings.
Jennifer Muller, Managing Director, Houlihan Lokey weighs in: I think one of the obvious reasons that women would benefit the industry is that there are a lot of talented, intelligent women. If they aren’t going into your field, you’re losing out on that talent. There are also relevant studies on the subject, as Kerry mentioned. One compelling piece of research is that diversity improves performance because it makes people a bit uncomfortable, which forces everyone to be on their game and perform at their best. If you have a group of only men, they tend to be comfortable working together. But if you put any kind of diverse individual in there – or, especially, more than one, since you can always write off one – it can create a competitive dynamic that forces everyone to perform better. That's the theory behind it anyway.
Caroline Howell, Founder, Lignin Growth Partners says: Having women in leadership positions is critical to any successful organization. Firstly, we make up more than half of the population. If you are not tapping into that talent, you are missing out. Secondly, there is all kinds of data to show that having women on boards, in the C-suite, and in positions to make strategic decisions contributes to better performing companies. We make up over 70% of the buying power in the United States and oversee most large purchasing decisions. The numbers just do not support excluding women from leadership and decision-making roles. We have a unique ability to listen, foster trust, and bridge communication when conversations get hard. Almost every successful leader will agree that this skill is necessary to overcome obstacles and generate new ideas for progress.
Download the full WHITEPAPER
Women Dealmakers: Gaining a Seat at the Table
Insight on gender diversity takes on increased importance in M&A and corporate boardrooms from women who are leading the way