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Q2 2023 - (released August 2023)

SA's quarterly Private Equity & Venture Capital magazine


Reflections on gender diversity in private equity from leading women GPs

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Catalyst asked Madichaba Nhlumayo, an investment professional who has worked in the Private Equity (PE) industry since 2007, for her experience and reflection on gender diversity in private equity in South Africa. Over the last 17 years, Nhlumayo has worked in front-office roles in teams (including a large captive fund and a mid-market third party fund) investing in medium-sized companies in South Africa. Her experience has been varied, traversing several disciplines from finance, legal, tax, corporate governance, strategy and, importantly, partnering with co-investors to create and realise value in portfolio companies.

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In 2019, Nhlumayo founded Ditiro Capital, a black women-owned and led private equity fund manager, and together with her colleagues Mandisa Nkosi and Karabo Nkoana, they are busy raising their first fund.  

She is undoubtedly passionate about South Africa, a market with significant challenges, yet also one with investment opportunities for investors with patient capital. “I am equally passionate about gender diversity and inclusion, not only in the PE industry, but in society more broadly,” she says. 


But tackling gender diversity still requires some serious reflection on the facts.

The profile of investment professionals has historically been predominantly male, comprising 81% of professionals in 2001 (white men: 57.3%). This is changing, albeit at a slow pace. According to the 2021 Annual Survey of the Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SAVCA), women made up 28% of front office roles, an improvement from 19% in 2001. This low statistic is not unique to South Africa, as Preqin’s Women in Alternatives 2023 – Gender diversity in global private markets report indicates that the proportion of women in PE globally is even lower at 22.3%.  

“Over the years, I have realised that transformation is a slow and grinding process. It requires role players (investors, asset consultants, fund managers, industry associations, et cetera) who are relentless and unapologetic in their pursuit of the industry’s transformation,” says Nhlumayo.

SAVCA has spearheaded various initiatives, including the establishment of fund manager development programmes like WE>MI, a programme funded by USAID and implemented by MiDA Advisors and SAVCA. Asset owners and their advisors who actively support emerging and women-led managers as anchor investors, investing directly or through incubation programmes managed by asset consultants or funds of funds, are also significant contributors to this process.  

Research is critical in measuring progress and highlighting potential bottlenecks and barriers. 27four’s annual BEE.conomics survey provides an understanding of the key issues faced by black asset managers (as defined in the report) operating in both public and private markets. The Eskom Pension and Provident Fund (EPPF) recently released a research report (conducted by GIBS through interviews with female portfolio managers) that gives qualitative insight into some of the hurdles experienced by women in asset management. 

“This made for interesting reading as, while data tells a story, it is also important to understand the lived experience of the people behind the data.” 

In this same vein, some senior women from the PE industry share their perspectives below, on the issues of gender inclusion and on initiatives that their organisations are implementing to promote greater inclusion of women in the sector. 

What are the challenges faced by women in accessing leadership positions in the industry?
Women tend to be less networked than men and, consequently, have less access to opportunities and finding sponsors to champion their advancement.  This results in their being less likely to have a sponsor who advocates for them when leadership opportunities arise. For those who do decide to start families, maternity leave and the requirement for flexibility often create misconceptions of their not being fully committed to their role, which may impede their career progression. 
Modula Mofolo (Co-founder and Managing Partner, SummerPlace Equity Partners).

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Professional women are often juggling several priorities to maintain a balance between their work and home lives. How, if at all, can this balance be achieved?
Achieving a balance is challenging at the best of times. At its core, it’s about prioritising what matters and being disciplined in this regard like the analogy of juggling rubber and glass balls and deciding which balls one can afford to drop; that is to say, knowing which balls will bounce back and which will shatter. The glass balls are my non-negotiables. So, it’s critical to create and maintain a strong support system, at work and at home, to enable one to thrive.

Mamedupi Matsipa (CEO, Ata Capital).

Please share the initiatives that your organisation has undertaken to increase gender diversity in the industry?
Our private equity fund is unique in that our parent company, AIH, is broad based (with over 53 black women beneficiaries). Further, a portion of the returns generated by the fund accrue to the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) Forum, whose work has contributed to the increase of black women Chartered Accountants from 400 to over 8 500 in the last 20 years. AWCA also has an entrepreneurs programme that supports fledgling businesses that, in time, can form part of the Venture Capital (VC) and later PE ecosystem.    
Further, we seek to uplift and impact women through our investment choices.  In households, women tend to control expenditure that is a gauge for consumer spend, including of financial products. As we invest in portfolio companies, many in industries that are male dominated, we intend to steer them to be gender inclusive in various ways, including staff profile and customer solutions. Sindi Mabaso-Koyana and Jesmane Boggenpoel  (Co-Managing Partners, AIH Capital).

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Thuso has partnered with asset owners, such as the EPPF, who seek to meaningfully bridge the gender gap by supporting women-owned and women- led managers. Through our Incubation Programme, we have allocated meaningful sized cheques to these managers, to ensure that they are sustainable and can operate optimally. In addition, we provide support to managers (especially those raising their first fund), with access to a network of service providers to assist with back-office functions so that the team can focus on executing their investment strategy. Michelle Bholosha (Investment Professional, Thuso Partners).

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RisCura was recently appointed as the investment manager and provider of management develop-ment and support services for The African Women Impact Fund (AWIF). This initiative, launched by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the Standard Bank Group, aims to overcome systemic barriers and investor biases in the asset management industry. By enabling and promoting women-owned and women-led funds across the African continent, the AWIF initiative seeks to create a more inclusive landscape. Tsholofelo Kelapologile (Senior Portfolio Analyst, RisCura Invest).

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Given your experience, what is your advice to women invest-ment professionals who are considering establishing their own fund management businesses?
Do it! Establishing your own firm is almost impossibly hard to do, so do it with eyes wide open, but if you have the conviction of your investment strategy and purpose, then get out there and do it! The only way to change the status quo is by getting out there in front and proving your exceptional capabilities. Sam Pokroy (CEO, Sanari Capital).

Over the last 20+ years, the PE industry has made progress in improving gender diversity. However, there is still more work required to ensure that we not only improve the statistics, but that we create inclusive work environments where women are able to carve out successful careers over the long-term. 

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