Women struggle to break into M&A, and diversity lags behind

M&A and diversity are performing badly, although the sector is showing good intentions

Although more British women are entering the sector, M&A and diversity do not mix well. This shift is most apparent among Millennials and Generation Z. But the industry is not as welcoming as hoped. Last year they felt less valued and supported than their male counterparts. 

While both male and female M&A professionals have felt consistently engaged at work over the past year, almost twice as many women as men feel burnt out.

Additionally, more women reported that they were interrupted and that others took credit for their ideas compared to their male counterparts. However, when asked whether they had experienced others questioning their judgement, ignoring their ideas, or others commenting on their emotional state, there were no substantial differences between responses from male and female M&A professionals.

This is according to findings from a new global survey of 600 dealmakers, including 150 UK M&A professionals, by Datasite, a leading SaaS-based technology provider for global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) professionals.

A man’s world 

This sector is still a man’s world. UK male M&A professionals outnumber women amongst Generation X (born 1965-1980) and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964). Men also hold many of the senior roles in the M&A space, such as senior manager or group head (56% male, 36% female). The opposite is true among middle and entry-level M&A roles, such as manager, non-manager or associate, with women accounting for 63% compared to 44% for men.   

More to do

To keep more women moving into more senior dealmaking roles, one area of focus for organisations that employ M&A professionals might include recognition and more diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) training.

Merlin Piscitelli, Chief Revenue Officer for Datasite in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, reminds us that diversity and inclusion spur innovation, enhance employee performance, improve retention, and strengthen the company and brand valuation. “Organisations also need to work harder to ensure that the growing number of women entering the industry also progress to leadership through support, training, and mentorship.”

The sector also performs badly in terms of diversity, even if they show good intentions. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of UK M&A professionals surveyed said diversity in the workplace is important to them. More than half said diversity matters to their managers, executive leadership, board of directors, and clients. 

Still, M&A professionals said they are somewhat unsure of how to show allyship with people from diverse backgrounds, with 23% in the UK M&A professionals citing fears about engaging appropriately as the biggest factor holding them back. “The aspiration to be a more inclusive place of work is very strong, but the conversation needs to quickly move to how best to achieve this,” said Anjali Motiani, Senior Vice President, International Finance, Datasite.

“Organisations need to invest more in training and foster a culture that celebrates and rewards diversity.”

DEI issues can impact deals

How organisations address, DE&I can also influence the outcome of a proposed deal. More than a fifth (23%) of UK M&A professionals surveyed said they have seen deals fall apart because of DE&I-related issues, including concerns related to culture and a company’s hiring, advancement and retention policies.

“It’s clear DE&I can drive deal value,” said Piscitelli. “Given the commercial consequences of not addressing them appropriately or in time proves this is an essential element to consider during due diligence.”

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