Where the most powerful women aren'tSeptember 29, 2011: 12:15 PM ET
Women remain absent from the top echelons of private equity and venture capital.
Fortune today released its annual list of America's most powerful businesswomen. Chief executives, chairwomen and vice presidents from most walks of corporate life. But only five of the 50 were from finance, and none were involved in private equity or venture capital.
Maybe you could someday call Blackrock's (BLK) Susan Wagner a private equity pro, but non-hedge alternatives are still less than 5% of Blackrock's assets under management. And Dominique Senequier of AXA Private Equity made the international list, but her influence may wane once AXA PE gets sold.
None of this should be terribly surprising. Only two women made this year's Midas List of the top 100 venture capitalists, and some top firms like Sequoia Capital don't feature a single female investment professional. And every major American buyout firm is led by men, with only a smattering of women at senior levels. It's an inequity the industry readily acknowledges, but does little to correct (even when investing in female-centric companies).
But this isn't to say you can't find women in VC/PE firms. They're in the back office.
As hard as it is for women to get partner-track jobs on investment teams, it's relatively easy to find work as a chief financial officer or controller. Last week I was at a Merrill Lynch-hosted conference for such folks, and more than 40% of the registered attendees were women.
"I think that some firms, all else being equal, prefer to hire women for financial or accounting jobs because it makes their websites look more gender-balanced," one female CFO of a VC firm told me. "But they don't mention on there that we not only get paid a lot less, but often don't even share in fund economics. I love the guys I work with, but I'm obviously not part of the club."
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