Industry veteran George Anson takes up Level 20 chair

The HarbourVest Partners senior advisor will be the first man to lead the advocacy group, which seeks to increase the number of women in senior investment roles in private equity.

Level 20, the advocacy group established to promote the role of women in private equity, has appointed George Anson as chair. He took up the position on 1 November.

Anson, a veteran of the private equity industry who previously chaired European industry body Invest Europe and is senior advisor to HarbourVest Partners, will take over the role from Jennifer Dunstan, who has been in the seat since 1 January 2017. She took up the position from Hanneke Smits, who chaired the group since its launch in September 2015. Dunstan, one of the organisation’s co-founders, will remain on the board.

George Anson

In a statement, Anson, who will work alongside chief executive Jeryl Andrew, said he had been “very impressed with the impact that Level 20 has made on the industry in a relatively short period of time”.

Level 20 has also launched an advisory council, made up of senior men and women from the industry, to advise its leadership.

Anson will be the first man to hold the chair position. Level 20’s 12 founders are all women.

“From the outset, Level 20 has worked closely with the industry to achieve its goals and has promoted a diverse and inclusive membership,” Andrew said in a statement.

“Attracting more female talent to private equity requires the engagement of both men and women and we are delighted to have support from many senior professionals across the industry: through our membership base; our mentoring programme, in which half of our mentors this year are men; and our newly-formed Advisory Council.”

The advisory council will include James Brocklebank, managing partner at Advent International, Nic Humphries, senior partner and head of technology at Hg, Wol Kolade, managing partner at Livingbridge, Cathrin Petty, head of European healthcare at CVC Capital Partners, Cheryl Potter, co-head of consumer at Permira, and Emma Watford, partner and head of business services at Bridgepoint.

Anson’s appointment and the establishment of the advisory council are part of a drive by Level 20 to move away from being a founder-led organisation to one with greater representation from across the industry.

The London-based group’s goal is to ensure women account for 20 percent of senior professionals across the European private equity industry by 2020.

A report by the BVCA and Level 20 released in May, which surveyed 179 private equity firms representing around 5,000 employees, found just 6 percent of senior investment team roles are held by women.

Women comprise just 29 percent of the private equity workforce, compared to 48 percent of the wider UK labour force. Private equity’s 6 percent representation compares particularly poorly with the corporate world, where 28 percent of board-level roles at FTSE 100 companies are held by women, sister title pfm reported at the time.

This underrepresentation continues outside of senior levels, with just 14 percent of investment professional roles held by women. In contrast, women comprise 60 percent of the non-investment role workforce. The report found 15 percent of mid-level roles (directors, principals, vice-presidents) and 27 percent of junior roles (associates, analysts) are staffed by women.

Research commissioned by Level 20 and conducted by a team from the Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School and released in July found banking and strategic consulting backgrounds to be the most common feeder industries for women entering private equity in junior investment roles, while 40 percent of women in senior investment roles entered the industry from a range of backgrounds, including consumer industries, engineering, healthcare and law.

In a statement announcing the results, Level 20 said “these findings suggest that there has been in the past decade or two a narrowing of the routes to entry to private equity for women, and this risks sharpening the industry’s gender divide”.

Last week Level 20 launched a committee in Amsterdam, led by Ruulke Bagijn, managing director of fund investments at AlpInvest Partners. This followed the formation of the Level 20 German committee earlier in the year. It is understood further committees across Europe are in the pipeline, including in Spain, France, the Nordics and Eastern Europe.