The challenges women face in achieving top-tier status in financial services are particularly acute in the middle market, where women account for only 14 percent of all dealmakers. One emerging exception may be private equity firms. As the asset class matures and some of the older players step aside, there’s room for new firms and new leadership of old firms, providing potential opportunity for women and minorities.

Two examples of the generational shift are Kristina Heinze and Julia Karol. Heinze co-founded ParkerGale Capital LP in 2014, when she and four male partners spun off Chicago Growth Partners. Heinze leads deal sourcing for ParkerGale, which backs small technology companies. The firm recently closed its debut fund.

Karol was recently promoted to president and chief operating officer of the Watermill Group, a Boston area firm founded by her father and grandfather.

Heinze and Karol are among the 2017 additions to Mergers & Acquisitions’ The Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, which launched in 2016. The list includes female dealmakers from all components of the middle market, including: corporate dealmakers, private equity investors, investment bankers, lenders, attorneys and other advisers.

All those honored on the original 2016 list who are still active in M&A remain on the 2017 list. Among those featured are Jeri Harman, the founder of Avante Mezzanine Partners, and Pam Hendrickson, the chief operating officer of The Riverside Co.

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.”

“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.”

Here are 35 women whose influence is felt throughout the middle market. Newcomers are noted in blue.

 

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