Carolyn Galiette, president and chief investment officer of Ironwood Capital in Avon, Connecticut, is a big believer in the power of diversity for a private equity firm. She herself was an English major in college, and her staff members have assorted backgrounds—military service, engineering, fine arts and commercial banking among them.
“We think that if we have different perspectives on businesses and the way in which we accomplish things,” she says, “then we’re going to produce a better product than if everybody followed the same path.”
That approach has been working for Ironwood, a middle market growth mezzanine investor that has placed more than $700 million with more than 125 companies, during the past 16 years. Galiette joined Ironwood in 1991, when it was still a boutique investment bank for the lower middle market. The firm launched its first fund in 2001.
“The important thing here is being able to understand companies and people, and how they work,” says Galiette. “I think most of us, who are smart, can learn how to run financial models. But those other skills are challenging to learn if you’ve taken a very narrow educational focus.”
Ironwood does more than support diversity within its own ranks; it vigorously supports it throughout society. The PE firm invests at least 50 percent of its funds’ capital in women and minority owned or managed businesses, businesses located in low- and moderate-income communities or that employ members of those communities, and businesses that pursue environmentally responsible outcomes.
Galiette, who has a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, is also personally active outside her firm. She chairs the executive board of the Small Business Investors Alliance (SBIA) and has testified before Congress on behalf of the National Association for Small Business Investment Companies. In 2016, she helped launch the Small Business Administration’s Onboard (Open Network for Board Diversity) initiative, aimed at improving diversity in leadership of U.S. small businesses.