The private equity industry is focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion like never before. Carlyle, for example, is tying CEO pay and employee bonuses to DEI goals. And many firms have signed on to the Institutional Limited Partners Association’s (ILPA) Diversity in Action initiative. But it’s one thing to talk about DEI. It’s another to live it. The PE industry “still has a long way to go,” as one PE pro put it recently. The case for diversity is strong – it improves decision making and investment returns – and throughout the industry, there’s a widely held belief in the benefits. Nevertheless, many firms are still struggling to recruit and retain diverse teams.

Today, Mergers & Acquisitions launched a new project: The 2021 Private Equity Leaders in DEI. The 14 individuals we recognize are pioneers with proven track records in fostering DEI in their firms, their portfolio companies and in the PE industry. Five of them are firm founders; the rest are responsible for DEI initiatives at their firms. They share their insights in our September cover story.

“Diversity is not something you can ‘achieve’ and then move on,” José E. Feliciano, co-founder and managing partner of Clearlake Capital Group, pointed out. To that end, this will be an annual project for our publication. For this inaugural effort, we relied on our own research and reporting to identify the leaders. In the future, we will announce a Call for Nominations, as we do for our other Honors programs.

This is one of five annual Honors programs Mergers & Acquisitions produces, including The Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&AThe Top 10 Middle-Market Deals of the YearThe Rising Stars of Private Equity and the upcoming inaugural 2021 PE Innovators in ESG. We hope to see you at our upcoming virtual events: M&A’s Leaders in DEI Speak on Sept. 22, and the PE Innovators in ESG Speak on Dec. 1.

Mary Kathleen Flynn