Level 20 launches Europe-wide research project – Exclusive

The study will look in detail at the career paths of hundreds of men and women in the industry to compare trajectories.

Level 20, the group established to promote the role of women in private equity, is launching a comprehensive research program of individuals across the industry.

The program, which will be launched in March, will take a detailed look at the career paths of men and women across the industry, gathering information about the individuals, including their educational backgrounds and work history.

Level 20 is hoping to get around 1,000 responses to the questionnaire, which will be disseminated across Europe, chief executive officer Jeryl Andrew told Private Equity International.

“We feel it will be useful to compare some of the cultural differences across Europe, as that’s certainly a factor in this,” Andrew said.

Invest Europe and the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association will help distribute the questionnaire, which will take up to 30 minutes to complete.

It is focused on “getting people to talk through what their study background is, then the different roles they’ve had with various firms, so that we can actually build up a picture,” said Jennifer Dunstan, a partner and head of fund investor relations at UK private equity firm 3i Group and one of the 12 founders of Level 20. Dunstan was named chair on 1 January.

“What we want to be able to do is to track people through their careers, so we would want go back to a core group of people to repeat the exercise, to be able to then see what things have changed.”

The research program will be led by Sucheta Nadkarni, a professor at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School. Nadkarni is head of the strategy and international business subject group and faculty lead for the Women’s Leadership Initiative.

“She has done work on gender diversity before,” Andrew said of Nadkarni.

“She did a report for The 30% Club, so she’s very excited about being able to work on the first project of this kind that’s been done in the private equity industry.”

Level 20 is aiming to present some of the study’s findings at its annual reception, held in November.

“If we’re going to be able to demonstrate progress being made, we need to actually have good data and we need to be understanding what people’s career paths look like,” Dunstan said of the motivating factors behind the study.

Level 20 now has more than 700 individual members and has secured multi-year financial backing from 37 private equity firms, including industry heavyweights such as Advent International, Warburg Pincus, TPG and KKR.

The group recently launched its second mentoring program, which involves 45 pairs. Andrew and Dunstan are also working on a “toolkit” of resources for GPs that support the organisation.

“The challenge for a lot of private equity firms is some of them are small in terms of the number of people they employ, so it’s hard to know what is best practice and what are your options in terms of the type of policies you should be developing,” Dunstan said.