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Congratulations to Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2021 Top 25 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A! In our 6th annual edition of the list, we honor consummate dealmakers who are also champions of change and powerful advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Never view your challenges as a disadvantage,” former First Lady Michelle Obama advises. “Your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2021 Top 25 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A proved her point during the past year. Not only did they overcome adversity, but they used it to their advantage, leading their teams through the pandemic with courage and creativity; closing deals with aplomb; managing remote workers adroitly; and creating and nurturing key business relationships. Many also balanced a range of personal responsibilities, including caring for young children and aging parents, as everyone worked and learned from home.
Already champions of inclusion, the honorees doubled down on diversity, as awareness of racial inequality in the U.S. heightened. They renewed their efforts to recruit and retain women and Black, Latinx and Asian dealmakers. And they strengthened and forged new groups to tackle the issues of the day together in innovative virtual formats.
“I believe the way to affect change in the business world is to affect change at the board level, so that more voices are heard,” said honoree Venita Fields, partner, Pelham S2K Mangers LLC. “Specifically, the voices of women and people of color must be heard at the board level and in the halls of private and public businesses. This takes a level of courage, and courage is a muscle that is seldom used. I believe that women have to become more accustomed to, and comfortable with, using that muscle, speaking up when necessary and to get allies to speak up for change as well.”
The dealmakers on our list know they have an important role to play. “I’ve realized that my seniority gives me a platform and an opportunity to raise awareness about ways that we all can work together to build a more inclusive environment,” said Justine Chiou of William Blair.
“As a Black leader, I am keenly aware of how many people look up to me within and outside the firm,” said Olamide Ajibesin, managing director, Anchin. “I’m passionate about mentoring various minority groups and hope to spread the message of how young professionals can manifest their ambitions through self-advocacy, resilience and networking.”
“It’s about equality for all, not just women,” said Pam Hendrickson of the Riverside Co. “Especially given the social unrest we saw in 2020, these themes are ever-prevalent and important as ever.”
Representation has always been an important factor in our project. Women are sorely underrepresented in the middle market, and many women aspiring to forge a career in dealmaking have yearned for role models to follow. By shining a spotlight on women who are stellar M&A pros and powerful leaders in the dealmaking community, Mergers & Acquisitions helps provide a roadmap.
We also provide an important platform for influential women to speak. In Q&As with the Top 25, you’ll hear from the dealmakers in their own voices and in their own words. And this year for the first time, we’re launching M&A’s Speak Series of leadership events on Feb. 24 with M&A’s Most Influential Women Speak.
Interest in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the middle market is at an all-time high, reinvigorated by heightened awareness of racial inequities through the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Institutional Limited Partners Association (ILPA) launched in December its Diversity in Action initiative. By signing on to the initiative, an organization publicly demonstrates its support for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many private equity firms have already pledged support, including Apollo Global Management; Audax Group; Blackstone; Carlyle; Clayton, Dubilier & Rice; KKR; LLR Partners; Palladium Equity and Silver Lake.
The primary goal of the effort is to produce quantifiable evidence of the number of limited partner and general partner organizations that have undertaken specific actions to advance diversity and inclusion, whether that pertains to recruitment, retention and promotion, engagement with investment partners, or support for broader industry initiatives. Tracking internal hiring and promotion statistics by gender and race/ethnicity is a key component of the project.
For women in the middle market, the numbers are going up, albeit slowly. Globally, the proportion of alternative assets employees that are female has grown to 19.7 percent, up from 18.8 percent in 2017, according to Preqin. Women now account for 11.9 percent of senior roles in alternatives.
Our Most Influential Women are actively involved in increasing the ranks of women in M&A. To borrow a phrase from Vice President Kamala Harris, they are committed to leaving the door more open than it was when they walked in.
Editor’s Note: In the table, 2021 Top 25 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, you’ll find links to Q&As with the dealmakers and hear in their own words how they are leading the way. Also see the table, 2021 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A Honorable Mentions, for more dealmakers making a difference.
|2021 Top 25 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A|
|Marilyn Adler||Founder; Managing Partner||Mizzen Capital|
|Olamide Ajibesin||Managing Director; Leader, M&A Transaction Advisory||Anchin|
|Justine Chiou||Managing Director, Services||William Blair|
|Catherine Dargan||Partner||Covington & Burling LLP|
|Daphne Dufresne||Managing Partner||GenNx360 Capital Partners LP|
|Afsar Farman-Farmaian||Managing Director; General Counsel||Varagon Capital Partners LP|
|Venita Fields||Partner||Pelham S2K Mangers LLC|
|Jeri Harman||Founder; Chair||Avante Capital Partners|
|Nanette Heide||Partner; Co-Chair, Private Equity Group||Duane Morris LLP|
|Pamela Hendrickson||Chief Operating Officer; Vice Chairman||The Riverside Co.|
|Dena Jalbert||Founder; CEO||Align Business Advisory Services|
|Mary Josephs||Founder; CEO||Verit Advisors LLC|
|Julia Karol||President; COO||Watermill Group|
|Alice Mann||Operating Partner||Blue Wolf Capital Partners|
|Patricia McJoynt||Managing Director||KBW (a Stifel company)|
|Beatrice Mitchell||Co-Founder; Managing Director||Sperry, Mitchell & Co. Inc.|
|Melissa Mounce Mithal||Managing Director, Leadership Talent & Diversity||GTCR LLC|
|Mina Pacheco Nazemi||Managing Director||Barings|
|Lorine Pendleton||Lead Partner, Rising America Fund||Portfolia|
|Natasha Plooster||Chief Operating Officer||Bridgepoint Investment Banking|
|Kimberly Smith||Co-Chair, Global M&A/PE Practice||Katten|
|Michelle Van Hellemont||Managing Director||Accordion|
|Amy Weisman||Managing Director||Sterling Investment Partners|
|Suzanne Yoon||Founder; Managing Partner||Kinzie Capital Partners|
|Caroline Young||Director, ESG||HKW|
|2021 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A Honorable Mentions|
|Cindy Babitt||Partner||Cyprium Partners|
|Susan Beth||Chief Operating Officer||NRD Capital|
|Sonya Brown||General Partner||Norwest|
|Sherry Cefali||Managing Director||Duff & Phelps LLC|
|Elaine Chim||Head of Private Equity Americas and APAC||Apex Group|
|Claudine Cohen||Managing Principal, Transactions and Turnaround Advisory||CohnReznick LLP|
|Alicia Cooney||Partner||Monument Group|
|Jennifer Cotton||Managing Director; Chief Underwriting Officer||Madison Capital Funding LLC|
|Eva Davis||Managing Partner, Los Angeles; Co-Chair, PE Practice||Winston & Strawn LLP|
|Mary Ann Domuracki||Managing Director||MMG Advisors Inc.|
|Darcy Down||Principal, Corporate & Securities||Baker McKenzie|
|Heather Faust||Partner; Co-Founder||Argand Partners LP|
|Kate Faust||Partner, Business Development||Rockwood Equity Partners|
|Jaime Forsyth||Managing Director||Monomoy Capital Partners|
|Carolyn Galiette||President; Chief Investment Officer||Ironwood Capital|
|Beth Haas||Partner||Cyprium Partners|
|Kallie Hapgood||Managing Director||Gridiron Capital|
|Therese Icuss||Co-Head of Underwriting||Twin Brook Capital Partners|
|Peg Jackson||Managing Director||Stifel|
|Jennifer Keating||Partner; Co-Leader, Chicago Corporate & Securities Practice||Mayer Brown LLP|
|Erin Kerrigan||Founder; Managing Director||Kerrigan Advisors|
|Karin Kovacic||Business Development Director||Baker Tilly|
|Jacque Kruppa||Counsel||Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP|
|Randi Lally||Corporate Partner||Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP|
|Heather Madland||Partner, Business Development||Huron Capital|
|Joan McCabe||Senior Advisor||Parcrest Advisors|
|Priyanka Naithani||Director||Harris Williams|
|Marcia Nelson||Managing Director||ShareNett|
|Tess Oxenstierna||Managing Director||Capstone Headwaters|
|Gretchen Perkins||Partner||Avance Investment Management|
|Kimberly Petillo-Décossard||Partner||Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP|
|Nancy Phillips||Managing Partner||Rallyday Partners|
|Meranee Phing||Partner||The Riverside Company|
|Vania Schlogel||Managing Partner; Founder||Atwater Capital|
|Sheryl Schwartz||Executive Board Member||Women’s Association of Venture and Equity|
|Renny Sie||Vice President||Boyne Capital|
|Jean Stack||Co-Head of Government & Defense; Managing Director||Baird|
|Tracy Streckenbach||Operating Partner||Gridiron Capital|
|Robin Suskind||Managing Director||KBW (A Stifel Company)|
|Rose Thompson||Chief Operating Officer||ButcherJoseph & Co.|
|Ekaterina Timaeva||Managing Director; New York TAS Practice Leader||Duff & Phelps|
|Kim Trick||Co-Head of Underwriting||Twin Brook Capital Partners|
|Shoshana Vernick||Managing Director||Avathon Capital|