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Despite current market conditions and the prospect of shrinking profits, some companies continue to make diversity, equity and inclusion a priority, even as a recession looms.
While this is encouraging news, it’s something we have actually noticed for some time now, particularly when it comes to financial services and mergers and acquisitions (M&A). While there is much more progress to be made, new evidence shows a more equitable landscape is emerging. At Exponent’s annual Exchange event, I shared some of the following details that point to the changes across M&A activity.
Diversity, equity and inclusion matter in M&A
Twenty-two percent of the 600 global deal makers Datasite surveyed reported seeing a deal fall apart in the last year due to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues uncovered in the due diligence process. Several of those surveyed cited HR hiring, advancement and retention policies as the greatest DEI risk to a deal, followed by sexual harassment claims. However, DEI is still not viewed as large of a threat as other risks to an M&A deal are, but the new research reveals how a company’s culture can impact both its performance and value.
DEI matters in the workplace
DEI doesn’t just matter in the context of a deal, though. It also matters in the context of the workplace that we all inhabit day in and day out — whether virtually or in person. There has been significant progress in the representation of women in dealmaking. In our latest survey, 44% of respondents identified as women, including 49% from the Millennial generation.
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What’s more, according to our research, while both genders are equally asking for promotions, women are 5% more likely to be offered a promotion and experience faster career progression to the manager level than men. Additionally, more women than men reported getting a base pay raise of 16% or more last year, though overall raises for men and women last year remain unequally distributed.
Work that is still to be done
However, it is not all good news. We also found that more women than men in M&A — 30% compared to 26% respectively — are actively seeking other jobs. Between the competing factors of the current Great Resignation and M&A talent crunch, these percentages can add up quickly. Our research also found that men continue to dominate M&A at the senior manager and executive levels. Additionally, 40% or more of both genders are not seeking a promotion out of concerns about workload and travel.
Finally, children and childcare are areas that deserve more attention. Most M&A professionals reported they have children under 18 years of age, including 10% more men than women. What’s particularly interesting, though, is that more than 50% of both men and women consider themselves the primary caretakers of children 18 years old or younger. During the height of the pandemic, more women than men in M&A — and in many other companies and sectors — reported that they felt burned out as a result of performing more caretaking in their personal lives. Now, however, it seems both genders are managing multiple responsibilities, something dealmaking organizations will want to consider as they seek to retain and nurture talent.
What else can dealmaking organizations do to create and support greater equality, both in the context of a deal and the workplace? Here are a few ideas:
Encourage the use of family-friendly benefits by men
Organizations need to encourage men to take advantage of family-friendly policies, including parental leave. Even if it’s offered, men are less likely to use parental leave because of financial costs, gender expectations, or the fear that it may hurt their careers. However, research shows that there are physical, emotional, and financial benefits for men who take parental leave, including the fact that they are more likely to be equal partners in raising their children.
Global deal makers have said they are unsure of how to show allyship with people from diverse backgrounds, with 20% citing fears about how to engage appropriately as the biggest factor holding them back. To find, foster and elevate M&A talent, managers need to support educational efforts on why inclusivity is important and how to be an ally. For example, we’ve created a learning-oriented culture that fosters openness, empathy, curiosity and adaptability, which improves diversity and inclusion at work.
Our DEI council is an employee-led, cross-functional, global team driving DEI across the company. By including employees in this effort, we hope to create a shared responsibility for furthering a culture where every employee can bring their best self to work each day and offer a space for employees to learn together and from each other, which drives greater collaboration, understanding and belonging.
The pandemic showed us that many activities can be done remotely. We saw this from the perspective of an organization, and through our customers. There are, of course, parts of dealmaking that benefit from in-person meetings, especially when it comes to cultivating new relationships, but virtual dealmaking works.
Start a female genius club
Refer to female colleagues as ‘geniuses.’ The thought behind this is that calling a female colleague a genius in passing conversations and discussions helps build up their credibility and elevates them. Just consider how describing a female colleague as a genius can play out the next time she is being considered for a plumb assignment, job, or promotion. It’s a small act that can have a powerful effect.
Creating enduring and sustainable value will always be a sound investment strategy. And when it comes to M&A, organizations that prioritize DEI efforts and resources will help drive successful business outcomes.
Deb LaMere is the chief human resources officer at Datasite.
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