Allocators push for diversity in PE

Pensions and LPs call for an end to ‘pale, male, and stale’ on boards and at GPs.

One woman on the board or in marketing no longer counts as diversity, according to panelists at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles. 

“We are very focused on inclusion. But, when firms come and speak to us they bring one woman representative, but not much more than that, ” said CIO of California State Teachers' Retirement System Christopher Ailman. 

CalSTRs is one of the pensions at the forefront of inclusion and Ailman notes that it has been an uphill battle to find GPs or corporate boards in the US with more than a token diversity hire. 

“I wasn't a fan of the idea of quotas, but if you look at Europe and the 30 percent club, it is working. And if the industry is just content to tread water on this issue a policy response like quotas may be what we need to do to get the numbers up,” Ailman said.

His views were echoed by Seema Hingorani, managing partner, Seema R. Hingorani Partners. Before starting her own firm Hingorani was the CIO for the Bureau of Asset Management, City of New York. 

“When I was CIO there were three other female CIOs in pension systems. Now there are two. One of the core issues in private equity is the lack of female allocators. We've got to fix that if we want to move the needle. When GPs would come before me and present their funds I'd always ask about the number of women. Too few pensions are doing that. You see a whole firm of white men and you can't find one woman in investing to hire? I was one. We're out there.”

Hingorani has since started a consulting service to help financial firms find qualified female candidates.

“We need to stop admiring the problem,” said Mellody Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments and an advocate for diversity in boards and investing. Hobson has started including diversity metrics in the due diligence process of any investment Ariel considers. 

“Choosing not to vote the proxy over diversity is a heavy handed way to do it, but it makes people pay attention,” she said.