Diversity in finance is gaining prominence, with companies making impressive progress toward inclusion. Evidence that organizations gain competitive advantage from more inclusive teams and executive boards fuels this important discussion.
Diversity and inclusion are imperatives for the M&A Community, as they are for our members, whose primary goal is to build a profitable business that attracts and develops exceptional people.
To recognize women’s achievements and understand the key challenges women face in today’s business world, on 20th October, powered by iDeals, we hosted the first-ever event for women working in M&A in Madrid.
Our renowned speakers, Mariela Gonzalez, Co-founder of The Bell Capital Spain, and Sabine Schilg, VP of Customer Success at iDeals, led the discussion and shared important insights.
Roundtable with Mariela Gonzalez and Sabine Schilg
How do you see women’s participation in the Technology and Finance industry, Sabine?
Sabine: Technology and Finance remain domains where you see more men than women, with differences regionally. Most countries, cultures, and companies, particularly in the IT and Finance sector, know that where we struggle is finding the right actions to change things. There is progress, but it is too slow.
And what does diversity look like when we zoom in on the M&A market, Mariela?
Mariela: The world of M&A is slowly beginning to change, as diversity and inclusion of women in the workforce are being addressed by society and is considered an important issue for investors and stakeholders, but there is still a long way to walk.
Is it the same in Spain?
Mariela: In Spain, the gender GAP is above 36% to reach equality between women and men. This GAP might be higher in fields like M&A since this area has historically tended to be very male. Usually, in junior positions, there is a better balance between genders, but as the positions become more senior, the representation of women decreases.
 Closing the GAP. Published March 2022
How soon can we see further advancements?
Sabine: The World Economic Forum said in its annual report that it would take 143 years to close the gender gap. That is shocking and hopefully a wake-up call for companies, executives, and governments to develop ideas to make this happen faster.
Mariela: Indeed, and the changes have to start at the top of a company. Leaders and society must be proactively involved in promoting workplace gender equality. Several workstreams are trying to increase the number of women working in M&A.
2Reference: World Economic Forum: Global Gender Gap Report 2022.
Can you highlight a few work streams?
Mariela: For example, increase representation by creating formal and informal networks (mentorships, events, coaching, etc.), redesign the recruitment process, improve work-life balance policies, raise awareness of the pool of women that work in M&A.
Regarding the points highlighted, what has been your personal experience, Sabine?
Sabine: I am grateful for the opportunity to have spent the early part of my career in New York, where I knew many women in executive leadership roles. For the first time, I had an all-female diverse team. The diversity made discussions richer. An inclusive and diverse environment allows wider perspectives in brainstorming ideas when solving problems.
Moving on to recruitment, what soft skills do you seek for professionals who want to work in SaaS?
Sabine: In a technical role, you basically work in a team and solve hard problems. That requires to be curious, always learning, to be a good team player, to communicate, to adapt, and to demonstrate critical thinking. Also, people with excellent time management and superb interpersonal skills can deal with experts and people on all intellectual levels. Then you need people with specialized knowledge and expertise to perform specific tasks and use specific tools and programs in real-world situations – cyber security, data analytics, robotics, programming, UX design, and more.
Does this vary in M&A, Mariela?
Mariela: I would say that the soft skills are mostly in line, the person has to show passion, motivation, negotiation skills, and strong interpersonal relationships. In terms of technical and hard skills, it is necessary to have analytical thinking, problem-solving and business understanding, and sales skills.
As our last question, can you summarize the market prospects for the following months?
Mariela: The current market context is uncertain, and this has caused transactions and deal flow in 2H 2022 to be at a standstill compared to the very active year of 2021 and the first half of 2022. However, investors have significant liquidity positions, and it is foreseeable that the market will recover in 2023 once the economic environment stabilizes.
Moreover, this recovery and the level of activity vary by industry. Sectors such as Agri, Infrastructure, or Energy will be industries where the investment attractiveness remains very high, and activity should not slow down. On the contrary, industries that are more attached to private consumption could see their attractiveness reduced.
Sabine: Every challenge in the market presents an opportunity. New thinking is required to deal with modern problems, and how we deal with them will shape the ecosystem. This, in particular, drives M&A.
I would like to conclude with a word of encouragement to all women: strive for jobs you love, and seriously consider technology and finance. There is such a massive gap in available talent in the market that companies are changing their approach to finding diverse talent. All you need to do is have the right qualifications plus the desire to make this your career. And things will fall into place.
Slow progress, but progress nonetheless
Diverse talent in finance is still a largely untapped business resource, and there is still a dearth of women in M&A, where they are under-represented, especially in senior roles. The actions that make a real difference are:
- Mentorship based on inspiring women’s trajectory or problems faced during their careers encourages others to become confident and cultivate strategic networks.
- Social impact funding and community programs provide mentoring and equity-based financing for SMEs. An increasing number of funding sources offer products or qualified community management specifically to women-owned businesses.
- Public policies encourage female entrepreneurs underpinned by regulatory frameworks that address stereotypes and barriers such as access to childcare.
- Remote work provides flexibility for women, especially those responsible for childcare, a responsibility disproportionately taken on by women during the pandemic.
According to Deloitte Global’s report, Women at Work, 2022, women who work for more inclusive companies report better engagement, trust, career satisfaction, and mental well-being. A recent survey by E&Y shows that companies with Boards that are at least 30% women increase their gross margins by up to 15%.
Spain currently ranks in the top 10 countries for gender equality, much higher than many other EU countries, according to the latest research from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.
Four Spanish companies made it onto Refinitiv’s 2021 Top 100 most diverse and inclusive organizations globally – Red Electrica Corporacion, Acciona, Ebro Foods, and Industria de Diseno Textil. And the top five were Gap Inc (US), Royal Bank of Canada, Accenture Plc (Ireland), Owens Corning (US), and Allianz SE (Germany).