DEI has been important to Avante Capital Partners since its founding in 2009. The firm recognizes that the finance industry suffers from inequity and strives to support individuals, specifically women and people of color. Ivelisse Simon, managing partner and a founding member of Avante, leads diversity initiatives. Mergers & Acquisitions named Simon one of the Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A in 2022.
What steps are you taking to improve DEI at your firm?
Avante created the Small Business Investing Scholars internship program. Along with our partner Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) funds, we work with women and people of color students, introducing them to the fundamentals of private equity and private debt. Our aim is to create inclusive enterprises by promoting gender, racial and ethnic diversity in the PE and direct lending industries. We additionally created broader women’s programming to connect likeminded women within the finance industry.
Avante saw enormous potential to help drive job creation and wealth in underserved communities – specifically women and people of color. In 2019, 270 SBIC funds invested $5 billion in 1,110 companies and only 4 percent of those companies were women or minority owned. Avante partnered with the industry to dramatically increase the number of diverse professionals that operate in the SBIC industry so we can change those statistics.
What results have you achieved?
Undergraduate students come to the internship program with varied backgrounds and educations, but they all have certain characteristics in common – their talent, work ethic and commitment to make a difference.
• The first diversity undergraduate internship program in the SBIC industry. The eight-week internship offers undergraduate students the opportunity to work at SBIC firms across the country, and many of the firms have never employed diverse candidates.
• Three of nine 2020 interns received full-time offers upon graduation with their firms.
• In 2021, we increased to 26 interns – 73 percent women and 73 percent people of color
• In 2022, we increased to 36 interns – 55 percent women and 72 percent people of color.
Our second achievement is the creation of our women’s network. We have 700-plus women in our PE database with an executive women’s network that is comprised of experienced and well-respected women executives and operators across various industries. As part of our women’s programming, this network aims to connect our partners and portfolio companies with women for available executive and board member roles.