August 17, 2017
In today’s challenging deal environment, dealmakers need to go beyond financial expertise and industry knowledge to successfully execute a transaction. Diversity can be a key in making sure a deal delivers more value for shareholders.
Stephanie Hogue is a Managing Director and the head of US Debt Private Placements for PwC Corporate Finance*. In a previous blog, she discussed the state of diversity in deals and the unique perspective and skills women bring to the deals process. Below, Stephanie shares her experience as a woman in the deals industry and her views on the state of diversity in deals.
How much do people still think of M&A and deals as a bunch of white guys in suits and ties?
That’s the default mindset. And if you look around, its default reality, too. When we set out to build our Corporate Finance business in the US, we hired recruiters whose specific job was creating a diverse team that reflected PwC’s core values. Of more than 150 Managing Director candidates presented, a mere five were women, and there were fewer than 30 diverse candidates. Today, we have 20 managing directors in corporate finance, and 14 of them are white males – and we’re more diverse than many. They’re all fantastic individuals with a wealth of experience and knowledge, but we need to make the perspective as broad as possible.
So it is an issue for many reasons. We need to make sure that people at the manager level are really starting to think about how they develop their teams, and we need to make sure that people feel supported so that they don’t self-select out of the industry as they’re reaching success. That starts at the top, making sure it’s a focus area.
What are some ways to do that?
It’s not enough to have a focus on diversity. We have that, and while it brings the topic into the light, it doesn’t keep people in the industry beyond a certain level.
We have to think about a few things. One, how we hire. For example, there are schools that are great in finance or accounting but tend to have a less diverse set of students. There are schools that have a more diverse set of candidates but perhaps less of a focus on the industries in which we excel. So perhaps for some of our junior staff, we need to make a concerted effort to go someplace outside the norm. Someplace that has more minorities or more students from underprivileged backgrounds to bring in that point of view.
The sponsorship issue is also critical. Without question, my sponsors have helped my success during career transitions. Without them, it would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, to move from M&A to Debt Capital Markets, or from New York to Sao Paulo. Even seemingly natural transitions, such as Director to Managing Director, required a tremendous amount of sponsorship. Stressing to our younger team members that they need to create those relationships at a senior level will help make those progressions, as well as help them sustain their careers as they make their own personal transitions.
How important is that for a woman’s career development?
A lot of women drop out of the industry because they wait until they’re a manager to have children, and that’s also when you really need to ramp up in your job. Or they wait until they’re a director or beyond, and they want to be home more often with their young child. One of the most helpful things is to figure out a way to begin people back in. I was very aware that if at any point when I had children I left the industry, I wasn’t coming back at my level and my trajectory. It actually made having my three kids a tremendously stressful period, both personally and professionally.
When my third child was about a year old, I told my boss I really didn’t see this lifestyle being sustainable, traveling up to five days a week. I was convinced I was having a conversation about leaving the firm. Bringing the perspective of managing teams in Europe and Canada, he recognized the personal transition our family was experiencing and brought a non-American perspective to the conversation. He talked me off that cliff, and we scaled back travel until I felt like I was ready again, which turned out to be just a few months.
Knowing I had the support of people above me, and that they could find a solution given their global perspectives, encouraged me to dive back in. The deal environment is an intense environment – it has long hours, and travel and work life balance do become an issue, especially as children come into the picture. We need more managers looking for solutions to sustain people through those key personal life transitions. It builds tremendous loyalty and employees who look to do the right thing for their teams.
What other challenges have you seen?
There are very few senior level role models for younger women, especially in the deals arena. It’s pretty rare when there’s a female managing director or partner sitting at the negotiating table or leading a deal team. The implicit message for women is that at some point you will make a choice. I don’t think the firm or the industry wants or intends for that to be the message. But if you see that nobody is having children, staying and getting promoted, then it’s easy to think, well if they can’t do it, I can’t do it.
There are studies that say when women speak up about other women, their point of view can be discounted. That might lead some women managers to stay quieter. So now all of a sudden, these junior women just starting their careers have fewer people at the table speaking on their behalf and sponsoring them, because they’re not sure if it will be helpful or harmful. That, in turn, makes them less likely to be promoted, and it becomes a self-sustaining cycle of women hitting a certain point and then feeling it’s time to move on. Being aware of those “blind spots,” as we call them internally, is something that we as an industry need to acknowledge and address.
Finally, I think getting women excited about what we do would be helpful. When I’m on campus interviewing and meeting with students, the women generally are pleasantly surprised to see a senior-level woman, which makes them more curious about the job, firm and industry. People hear a lot about how intense Wall Street is – how driven, how competitive – but we don’t talk a lot about the fact that you might learn on Wall Street in five years what it would take you 10 or 15 to learn elsewhere. Or the fact that in some roles you work closely with private clients, and finding growth solutions for middle market, private companies means jobs for families and growth in the economy.
There are a lot of great benefits that probably would bring more women into the business. The question is how you keep them and show them that trajectory early enough in their career that they stay through the early childhood years in their families.
How can we include different perspectives and ensure a diversity of views on teams?
I think it comes within teams first, then it comes from a leadership perspective. It’s a matter of managers and business leaders seeking out those diverse points of view and pushing them forward – asking people to share them and encouraging those voices at the table. Everyone has their own unique story, and that story brings value to the negotiating table.
Once people become comfortable with that, it’s easier to have that conversation during a transaction. You recognize someone may be coming at a negotiating point from the opposite side of the table. Instead of challenging them to see my point of view, an inclusive perspective allows me to listen and understand where they’re coming from – where they see value and where we can meet in the middle.
It makes for better negotiations. Better negotiations mean better valuations, and that means better deals. But it has to start with getting to know people and being comfortable with sharing who you are.
For the fourth consecutive year, PwC and The Conference Board are hosting The Corporate Development Conference, Transformational Dealmaking and the Road to Value Creation. Join Stephanie and her esteemed panelists at the conference as they share their insights and experiences for building the M&A function of tomorrow with diversity across portfolios, people and points of view. To receive a limited-time discount of 50% courtesy of PwC, please use promotional code PWC50 when registering. The promotional code expires on Sept. 4. Register here.
* PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Finance LLC (“PwC Corporate Finance”) is a registered broker dealer and a member of FINRA and SIPC. PwC Corporate Finance is owned by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, a member firm of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Network, and is not engaged in the practice of public accountancy.