Originally published in Spanish in the TTR Report Mujeres top del sector legal y financiero 2021.
Why do you think there is a gender gap in the M&A market?
There still remains a significant underrepresentation of women in leadership among institutions involved in M&A – regulators, banks, law firms, and PE firms. We only have to look to the myriad of research around the topic to stress the benefit of having diversity around the table when making critical decisions. So, there are strong commercial incentives to promote gender diversity in the industry.
The main reason for these gender disparities is that institutional, systemic, and cultural obstacles still largely prevail. The impact of conscious and unconscious biases during the recruitment process and throughout employment play a role, in addition to barriers including lack of networking opportunities, lack of mentors and advocates, and concerns regarding work-life balance, given women often take on a disproportionate amount of work in running the household compared to their male counterparts.
The pandemic was also a textbook case of disruption that sadly set back a lot of progress towards gender parity. The challenges and demands at the workplace – be it the way teams are managed, access to networks, and crucial hands-on experience – impacted women disproportionally. Our Dealmakers Return to Work survey, showed that women dealmakers were more burned out and had poorer mental health compared to their male counterparts during the pandemic.
Dealmaking activity is now at record numbers and women are at risk of missing out on growing with the industry because of underrepresentation.
What proactive steps is Datasite taking to provide a level playing field for women on business leadership issues?
At Datasite we are making a conscious effort and taking tangible actions to ensure we champion and support women, both internally and externally. To start, a number of leadership positions at Datasite across finance, legal, HR, corporate communications, accounting, and sales are held by women, which really helps set the tone from the top. In addition, we have an employee-led Diversity Council in place, which helps ensure that female voices and perspectives are heard and applied to everything from talent recruitment and retention, diversity & inclusion events, and development opportunities.
We also showcased some accomplished female professionals from the industry who shared their journey to success with employees around the world. The company organized a virtual panel discussion to celebrate International Women’s Day, focused on how we can all play a part in shaping a more equal future and recover from the pandemic. We also make it a point to regularly celebrate our diverse talent. One of our female product managers recently led her team in the development of a new product that was named a 2021 BIG Innovation Award winner. We recognized this with a video on social media and internal channels.
I am very proud to say that Datasite is living proof of the positive impact these kinds of initiatives have on employee satisfaction and improving engagement and productivity levels. Our voluntary turnover rate of 8% is low for the industry whilst our employee engagement score of 80 is significantly above the industry benchmark. The pandemic has taught all of us at Datasite a great deal and that is of tremendous value in tearing down biases and ensuring the best talent has a seat and voice at the table.
We also try to focus on driving change not just within the company, but across the M&A industry. For example, Datasite is a visionary sponsor of Exponent Women, an industry organization that is dedicated to giving women dealmakers access to meaningful interactions and educational content. Women leaders at Datasite speak at industry events, which helps visibly represent divergent views at these public platforms. I have had the opportunity to speak at a panel by Women in Technology (WIT), a not-for-profit organization that empowers girls and women to excel in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM) from the classroom to the boardroom.
What are the main challenges companies will face in this “new reality” in the inclusion of women in the M&A market?
The most visible sign of ‘new reality’ in the workplace is hybrid and flexible working. And it’s here to stay. This prompted a renewed focus on the conversation around wellness, balance, and gender parity - because the disruption at the workplace was disproportionally harder on women. Dealmaking throughout a global pandemic put the M&A sector through many tests but ultimately showed us how much our perceptions can be adapted to a new normal.
There’s no going back if you want to be seen as an agile and progressive institution, so the main challenges will lie in whether your business is flexible, has a progressive and transformative mindset, and culture to take meaningful steps towards greater diversity and inclusion.
Companies that don’t make room for these additions will have a difficult time recruiting and retaining talent, a challenge that is all too apparent in today’s market as companies face what has been dubbed the “Great Resignation”.
Progressive and highly successful organizations have relooked at the way work environment become more inclusive – especially around support for and after maternity, fertility benefits, adoption, and surrogacy support, normalizing conversations and support around menopause. It’s also important to understand the significance of measures like paternity leave when it comes to shaping perceptions of childcare and responsibility. For example, many assume that men don’t have to pick up kids from school as it's already being managed by women. So, it's crucial that we enable conditions to support ‘shared responsibilities’.
All these are becoming game-changing starters for conversation and true differentiating factors for recruitment and retention.
In the M&A sector, what will be the most dominant sectors in the market in 2022?
Four areas look set to dominate dealmaking activity in 2022: the TMT, consumer, and Industrial & Chemical sectors - which were also the three busiest areas of the market, by value, in Q3 2021. But it’s also worth keeping an eye on business services – although much will depend on the spread of the Omicron variant.
Tech will be a defining sector for many reasons. We are indeed in the midst of a record-breaking year for M&A. Through the first three quarters of 2021, global M&A activity hit a record-setting pace, with just over 27,000 deals completed for a combined $3.4 trillion. New global diligence projects on Datasite’s platform, which are deals at their inception rather than announced, are up by over 30% in 2021. The past 18 months have seen a digital stampede, as businesses everywhere have scrambled to upgrade their tech for remote working.
This surge in activity is the result of favorable interest rates, ready access to capital, and many organizations turning to technology and combining with other companies to ensure their digital transformation. In fact, new global TMT projects on our platform are up by over 40% in 2021.
2022 is shaping up to be another busy year for dealmakers. In fact, we’re seeing this on our platform, where deals that are coming on now will be announced in the summer. And we’re hearing it from dealmakers themselves. We surveyed 600 global dealmakers across the US, UK, and EU in November, and 48% of them expect activity to increase next year. This outlook is supported by favorable interest rates and private equity cash piles.