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A big private equity firm promoted a lot of men to its top jobs

If you're a woman with aspirations of making it to the top in private equity, then the latest round of promotions at KKR may not fill you with optimism. Of 41 people promoted to partner or managing director, we count only six women. The female faces are lost amidst a sea of men.

KKR's lucky women are: London based Franziska Kayser, who joined from Credit Suisse in 2011; New York based Anne Arlinghaus, who came from McKinsey in 2008; New York based Megan Gaul, who came from KKR in 2020; Kathleen Lawler, who joined in New York from JPMorgan Asset Management last year; Shreya Malik, who joined in 2021 from Partners Group in London; and Jin Fu, who joined from Pimco in 2021 and is responsible for KKR's asset backed investments in New York.

Only Franziska Kayser and Anne Arlinghaus were promoted to partner, along with six men.

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Despite only promoting 15% women to MD and partner, KKR said 47% of its workforce were women in January 2023, and that 27% of its workforce were women at partner, managing director and director level. The implication is that it has plenty of women, but they're all at director level and below. That four of the six women just promoted joined within the past three years also implies a possible issue retaining women at more junior levels.

KKR didn't immediately comment on the discrepancy. However, relative to other funds it may actually be doing pretty well. Level 20, a group that campaigns for more representation for women in private equity says that across the industry only 10% of senior and 22% of mid-level roles are held by women.

Charlie Hunt, director of the UK at private equity search firm PER says the industry as a whole is working hard to remedy its gender imbalance issue. "Women are only now really starting to come through the ranks," he says. "But if you look at the percentage of women coming into private equity now, it's really quite high. It's just a question of waiting until they reach the top."

Making it to the top of major firms like KKR matters. The recent private equity compensation survey from Heidrick & Struggles said managing directors at the biggest funds earn over $1.7m a year in salaries and bonuses, plus carried interest likely in excess of $3.6m every five years or so.

Of the men KKR promoted, just over half were Caucasian. Many of the others were Asian. None were black.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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