International Women's Day is Sunday, March 8, marking a good moment to highlight Mergers & Acquisitions' 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. (See full list below.) This marks the fifth year we have produced the list. It’s been gratifying to watch the project evolve over the years – and become more influential itself. This year, we received more nominations than ever before. As a result, we expanded the number honored to 42 in 2020, up from 36 in 2019.

Some of the names are familiar to our readers and have appeared previously. Pam Hendrickson, the chief operating officer of the Riverside Co., for example, continues to expand her sphere of influence. In addition to playing a pivotal role at a leading private equity firm, Hendrickson serves on the board of the American Investment Council, an advocacy and resource organization. Hendrickson meets regularly with lawmakers on behalf of the PE industry. That will be especially important in 2020, a presidential election year.

We’re also pleased to welcome many newcomers to the list, such as Shay Brokemond, managing director, industrials, William Blair, who recently closed five transactions in five months. “Change starts at home,” Brokemond says. “I’m deeply committed to developing diverse talent, as well as creating a culture where everyone — regardless of their background or position — feels empowered to bring their full and authentic selves to the office each day.”

Also new to our list is Ivelisse Simon, managing partner, Avante Capital Partners. Simon recently visited Capitol Hill alongside other representatives of the small business investment company (SBIC) community. “My focus was on increasing diversity in the SBIC program and the private equity industry more broadly,” Simon explains. “I like to say that, ‘We aren’t doing our job if we’re not having the awkward conversations.’” (Note that Avante is one of very few middle-market lenders led by a woman, Jeri Harman, a long-standing dealmaker on our list).

Also new are innovations in the content of the project. Last year, we switched to Q&As with the dealmakers, instead of profiles. This year, to keep the material fresh, we asked a new set of questions, including:

Describe a recent accomplishment.
What’s new?
How are you a champion of change?
How are you advancing the state of women?
Tell us more about yourself.

Over the five years since we launched the Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, the profile of women in the dealmaking world has been raised significantly. Dozens of new initiatives, such as networking groups and mentoring programs, have been launched, with many thriving today. And, anecdotally, many people in the middle market say the industry is changing.

Evidence has emerged recently demonstrating that including women on deal teams improves performance significantly. According to a study conducted by Oliver Gottschalg, a professor at HEC Paris, gender-diverse PE investment committees outperformed all-male investment committees substantially, as measured by several metrics: 7 percent more alpha; .52x more total value to paid-in multiple; and 12 percent higher internal rate of return. Also impressive: the failure rate of gender-diverse investment committees was 8 percent lower.

And yet women still represent only a small minority of senior positions at private equity firms throughout the world: just 9.4 percent. The low representation underscores the importance of projects, like this one, that feature successful female dealmakers.

If you’re already thinking about next year’s list, mark your calendar for September, when we open up the online nomination process, and mid-October, when nominations will be due. As always, we’ll be seeking female leaders with significant influence inside their companies and in the wider dealmaking world.

In the meantime, please join me in congratulating the 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. All are champions of change, committed to transforming the dealmaking world and to inspiring and guiding the next generation. Click on the links below to read their perspectives through Q&As.

Marilyn Adler, Mizzen Capital
Shay Brokemond, William Blair
Sonya Brown, Norwest Venture Partners
Frances Brunelle, Accelerated Mfg Brokers
Gina Cocking, Colonnade Advisors
Alysa Craig, Stifel
Catherine Dargan, Covington & Burling
Eva Davis, Winston & Strawn
Mary Ann Domuracki, MMG Advisors
Kate Faust, Rockwood Equity Partners
Leslie Fenton, Alantra
Venita Fields, Pelham S2K Managers
Carolyn Galiette, Ironwood Capital
Kallie Hapgood, Gridiron Capital
Jeri Harman, Avante Capital Partners
Hollie Haynes, Luminate Capital Partners
Nanette Heide, Duane Morris
Pam Hendrickson, The Riverside Co.
Mary Josephs, Verit Advisors
Megan Austin Karlen, Francisco Partners
Karin Kovacic, Monroe Capital
Jennifer Landis, Zoll Medical Corp.
Lauren Leichtman, Levine Leichtman Capital Partners
Heather Madland, Huron Capital
Corrie Menary, Kirtland Capital Partners
Beatrice Mitchell, Sperry, Mitchell & Co.
Meg Montague, The McLean Group
Nicola Morris, Wex
Chen Na, Stifel
Marcia Nelson, Alberleen Family Office Solutions
Raquel Palmer, KPS Capital Partners
Kimberly Petillo-Décossard, Cahill Gordon & Reindel
Natasha Plooster, Bridgepoint Investment Banking
Kapila Ratnam, NewSpring Capital
Ivelisse Simon, Avante Capital Partners
Katerina Timaeva, Duff & Phelps
Sarah English Tune, Davis Wright Tremaine
Michelle Van Hellemont, Accordion
Shoshana Vernick, Avathon Capital
Maria Watts, Baird
Amy Weisman, Sterling Investment Partners
Suzanne Yoon, Kinzie Capital Partners

Keith Button and Demitri Diakantonis contributed to this report.