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Adding valuable context,

rigour and innovation

Janice Johnston

Partner at Identity Fund Managers

The topics of Gender Equality and Diversity are currently very high on the agenda in many forums, conferences, articles, et cetera, and are well accepted as an aspirational goal, particularly as there is now overwhelming evidence from studies by McKinsey[1] , Boston Consulting Group[2] and the World Economic Forum[3] , to mention a few, that greater levels of diversity and inclusion, including gender diversity, lead to:


  • enhanced financial performance

  • better decision-making and

  • increased innovation


Even more pertinent to the fund management industry, including Private Equity (PE) and Venture Capital (VC), is that gender-diverse fund management teams deliver an incremental 10-20% in returns compared to non-gender diverse teams, according to a recent IFC study. Female funders are also twice as likely to invest in companies/start-ups with one female founder, and three times more likely to invest in a female CEO[4] , which highlights the potential lost opportunity and selection bias that currently exists in the allocation of capital.


The South African Private Equity and Venture Capital (SAVCA) industry has certainly played its part in driving increased gender equality over the past decade, and there has been a notable increase in the participation of women in the industry, which is to be celebrated.


A recent SAVCA 2021 industry survey report[5] indicated that 43% of employees (front and back office) in the industry were female and that 77% of PE firms were setting targets regarding gender diversity. The breakdown of female front office/investment professionals is lower at 28%, as there is a higher female representation in back-office roles. However, this is significantly increased from 19% in 2011 and on track for certain global industry targets of 30%.


Notwithstanding these encouraging developments, it is important to consider that these industry statistics on female representation are more weighted towards entry to mid-level positions, and there is still work to be done at the senior executive level, which is critical in terms of capital allocation decisions and performance. Consequently, additional focus on retention and career development opportunities is required, enabling women to potentially construct a more non-linear career path to suit the demands of different life stages.


This needs to be a priority as it makes both social and commercial sense, especially as the economy grapples with such complex and challenging issues like income inequality, climate change and escalating inflation. A higher proportion of women (at least 30%) involved in key decision-making roles will add valuable context, rigour and innovation to these debates and subsequent investment action.

  1. delivering-through-diversity_full-report.ashx (

  2. How Diverse Leadership Teams Boost Innovation (

  3. The business case for diversity is now overwhelming. Here’s why | World Economic Forum (

  4. GenderSmart - A Guide to Investing in First-Time Women and Diverse Fund Managers

  5. AVCA-Private-Equity-Industry-Survey-Volume-3.pdf


The progress on gender diversity has been made due to many PE firms’ intentional effort to redress the imbalance through a variety of initiatives. These initiatives have been aimed at a range of challenges and impediments which women face in the previously male-dominated industry, from both a recruitment and a retention perspective, including:


  • Successful implementation of the SAVCA Fund Manager Development Programme, which included a gender lens selection criteria

  • Recruiting from a broader group of colleges/universities

  • Establishing formal mentorship programmes

  • Creating diversity groups within the organisation

  • Launching/increasing attractive health and wellness policies

  • Seeking out candidates from non-traditional finance backgrounds

  • Establishing/increasing attractive family planning policies

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