Mergers & Acquisitions names the 2021 PE Leaders in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, including Khalida Ali, director of diversity and inclusion for Vista Equity Partners.

The phrase “conscious inclusion” carries the weight of individual responsibility. It implies that inclusion is an active and continual process. It is also the name of Vista Equity Partners’ DEI initiative, which is aimed at combating unconscious bias in the workplace. This effort is marked by its direct approach to supporting a diverse community at the office. Founded in 2000 by CEO and chairman Robert F. Smith, Vista is one of the oldest Black-led PE firms in the U.S. The firm invests in enterprise software, with a focus on sustainability initiatives, with $77 billion of assets under management. The firm recently acquired Power Factors, a software company serving the renewable energy industry.

Ali joined Vista in 2019. She is responsible for developing and delivering strategies for the firm to foster diversity and nurture inclusion. For Ali, building an inclusive work culture is imperative for any firm to reach peak performance. Ali shared some insights with Mergers & Acquisitions in this Q&A:

What steps are you taking to improve DEI at your firm?
In 2020, Vista developed a Conscious Inclusion program which is a continuous learning journey and data-based practical approach focused on the proactive and conscious efforts individuals can take to foster an inclusive workplace. This approach educates Vista employees and raises awareness on the presence of unconscious or implicit bias in the workplace and provides practical workshops to help change behaviors. The Conscious Inclusion program includes a firmwide competency and, importantly, has the support of stakeholders at every level of the organization.

What results have you achieved?
Through our External Board program, we have hired more than 70 current external board members, of which 20-plus took place in 2021. Now 69 percent of our majority-owned boards include at least one woman and 85 percent include at least one person of color. Currently, 44 percent of Vista employees are women and 32 percent are people of color. And these numbers continue to grow.

However, our true goal is to promote a culture that embraces DEI as a whole and that is why our Conscious Inclusion program is so important to couple with these initiatives. We want to build a workplace that is not just diverse but is also fair and welcoming to all employees.

Anything you’d like to add?
At Vista, we believe the investment industry has tremendous capacity to drive DEI objectives and it is our hope that a comprehensive DEI framework becomes essential to the DNA of private equity firms in the future given the clear benefits of DEI programs in creating better business outcomes. We recognize the opportunity and responsibility we have to make a positive impact on the world through our business and investment decisions and to create an even better future for everyone.