Recognizing that diversity yields better investment decisions and higher returns, several middle-market firms and organizations have launched programs aimed at recruiting and nurturing women, including investment bank William Blair, law firm Duane Morris and the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG). (For more, see The Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A.)

“We have found that it’s critical to have a diverse deal team, including women, in order to provide competitive solutions and creative ideas to our clients,” says William Blair managing director Beth Satterfield. The Chicago investment bank houses the Women’s Advisory Council, an internal program that aims to provide leadership development opportunities to female employees. 

The unit was started in May 2013, with William Blair CEO John Ettelson as the sponsor and head of investment management Michelle Seitz and head of investment banking Brent Gledhill as co-leads. The Women’s Advisory Council aims to attract high-caliber women to the bank by raising awareness, providing opportunities and removing barriers. The initiative has four sub-committees that focus on recruitment, development and sponsorship, networking and policies.

One of the program’s objectives is to find women who are considering careers in financial services, a process that involves attracting talent at the college and university level. “We’re really excited that over the last two years we’ve doubled the number of investment banking professionals that are female,” Satterfield says. “This year, we’re particularly excited that two-thirds of our associates are women, and one-third of all our on-campus recruits are women.”

Duane Morris has also developed programs to promote women’s leadership and family-friendly work-life balance. The Philadelphia-based firm is home to the Duane Morris Women’s Impact for Success. “The firm is very flexible in trying to come up with ways to meet everyone’s needs because, our biggest interest is retaining qualified attorneys,” says Duane Morris partner Nanette Heide.

The initiative aims to develop female lawyers into leaders. One of the keys to keeping women on board is retaining them after children come into the picture – so the firm provides both part-time and flex-time schedules for employees. “There are women who have incredibly successful practices who continue to use the flex-time policy, and they still have amazing practices and are viewed as firm leaders,” says Heide. Another program at the firm features coaching designed to assist women in expanding their clients and business. “As you increase the size of your practice within a law firm, then you’re able to gain some recognition, and leadership opportunities will become available,” Heide says.

The ACG has been addressing the gender gap throughout the middle market for several years. About one-third of ACG chapters design events with female members in mind. ACG New York provides proof that programming aimed at women is effective. Just 3 percent of the chapter’s members were women in 2008 when the Women of Leadership (WOL) committee was founded. Today, 17 percent of ACG New York’s members are women, says Accordion Partners’ director of business development Michelle Van Hellemont, who founded WOL. On Jan. 20, the group is hosting its third annual Leadership Summit, featuring a keynote address by Diane Schumaker-Krieg, global head of research, economics, and strategy, Wells Fargo.

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