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Q2 2023 - (released August 2023)

SA's quarterly Private Equity & Venture Capital magazine


Closing the gender pay gap: empowering women in Southern African private equity

by Michael Avery

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Cami Mbulawa, Head of AIS, highlights the pressing need for inclusivity and equal opportunities for women in private equity.

As South Africa prepares to celebrate Women's month, RisCura, a leading global investment firm, takes a strong stance in advocating for greater gender diversity within the Southern African private equity industry. With a commitment to promoting equality and inclusion, RisCura highlights the pressing need for a more balanced and representative landscape, where women can thrive and contribute to the industry's growth and success.

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Cami Mbulawa, Head of Alternative Investment Services (AIS) at RisCura, emphasises the importance of gender diversity and the existing disparities in representation within the private equity sector. Mbulawa draws upon her extensive experience and insights to shed light on the challenges faced by women in private equity.

“South Africa is probably the more balanced out of our neighbours, in terms of gender diversity in private equity, although there is still much progress to be made,” says Mbulawa. “From my interactions at conferences and client engagements, it is clear that, every year, many more talented women are entering private equity. However, a significant gap exists when you consider women make up 50% of the population.”

Mbulawa identifies systemic barriers and limited access to capital as key challenges that hinder women from fully participating in the industry. She highlights the need for initiatives and programmes that address these barriers, particularly at the associate level, to promote a more inclusive environment and support women’s career advancement.

“The private equity industry has traditionally been perceived as a ‘boys’ club’ or an insulated asset class, which can deter women from pursuing careers in this field”, she explains. “We need to foster confidence, provide greater access to information and resources, and create a supportive ecosystem that encourages women to thrive in private equity.”

A systemic barrier refers to a structural or institutional obstacle that hinders or limits the opportunities, progress, or equal treatment of certain individuals or groups within a system or society. “In the case of women in private equity, the societal expectation of mothers sacrificing their careers for home responsibilities is a significant barrier that needs to be addressed,” she says. 

Mbulawa commends the efforts of organisations such as SAVCA, which spearheads programmes to support senior women in private equity, who have established their careers at large firms and have started their own funds. She also underscores the significance of mentorship and sponsorship in nurturing talent and promoting diversity within the industry.

“Sponsorship plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining women in private equity. By actively supporting women from early stages, such as at the university level, we can cultivate a pipeline of diverse talent who are passionate about the asset class”, Mbulawa notes. “RisCura recognises the importance of mentorship and sponsorship, and has been involved in initiatives that actively increase the number of black women in the value chain, starting from universities and private equity firms.”

In 2018, RisCura launched the Chartered Accounting (CA) Training Programme, which provides students with practical, hands-on experience to excel in the private equity sector while obtaining their SAICA accreditation. “The RisCura CA programme has an impressive track record of success, with numerous graduates who have completed the syllabus going on to build successful careers in the industry,” she says.  

Mbulawa further emphasises the positive impact of gender diversity on decision-making and overall performance, citing studies that demonstrate a correlation between diversity and better outcomes. She highlights the inspiring stories of women who have started their own funds, and overcome societal and cultural challenges to establish successful careers in private equity.

“We have witnessed remarkable strides in gender diversity in the past five years, with notable female leaders emerging in the private equity landscape. These women, along with many others, are driving change, inspiring future generations, and contributing to the growth and profitability of the industry.”

In conclusion, Mbulawa calls upon industry stakeholders to embrace gender diversity, celebrate the achievements of women, and actively support initiatives that foster an inclusive and equitable private equity industry. “By embracing diversity in all its forms, the industry can unlock its full potential, drive innovation, and contribute to a stronger and more prosperous South African market.”

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