While women have made many strides in the financial services sector, they are still woefully underrepresented. Women account for only about 10 percent of the middle market, and they hold an even smaller fraction of senior management positions. Since dealmaking is all about forging relationships, feeling comfortable and connected is essential. Enter Mergers & Acquisitions’ The Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A.

For our special report, we have identified 25 of the best and the brightest female dealmakers, including: corporate dealmakers, private equity investors, investment bankers, lenders, attorneys and other advisers. Among them are: Jeri Harman (pictured), the founder of Avante Mezzanine Partners; Pam Hendrickson, the chief operating officer of The Riverside Co.; and Emily Waldorf, vice president, corporate strategy, Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB).

Under-representation is something of a vicious cycle. There’s a “lack of role models,” explains Harman. “It’s harder for women to see themselves in a senior role if they don’t see other women in senior roles. Hopefully, that’s changing, and as there are more role models, like myself and others, there will be more opportunities for younger women to see that they can get there.”

Hendrickson serves as another powerful role model. At the Riverside Co., one of the industry’s most active PE firms, Hendrickson fulfills several significant roles. As COO, she runs all of the firm’s back-office functions (including finance, compliance, marketing, human resources, information technology and administration) and two sales functions (fundraising and deal origination). She also supervises the Riverside Strategic Capital Fund and sits on the firm’s global investment committee, which considers investments in all five of the firm’s fund strategies. She’s also served as chair of the Association for Corporate Growth and testified before Congress on behalf of the private equity industry.

“There’s an awful lot of evidence out there that diverse perspectives make better investment decisions,” Hendrickson says. “But it’s not just women. It’s other minorities as well. Bringing those types of perspectives to a discussion around investments is really important, and you will absolutely make better decisions.”

With the launch of The Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, Mergers & Acquisitions joins a long history of celebrating female business leaders at SourceMedia, the publishing company that owns our brand. SourceMedia, backed by Observer Capital, publishes many special reports honoring women in various financial services sub-sectors, such as American Banker’s Most Powerful Women in Banking

We’re publishing The Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A at a time when the financial services industry is under scrutiny for its treatment of women, due, in part, to Ellen Pao’s unsuccessful but high-profile gender discrimination suit against former employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao’s case serves to remind venture capital and private equity firms alike that it’s time for a cultural sea-change. With this project, we hope to foster a sense of community and inspire the next generation.