India's dealmaking space has long been a man's world, but things are gradually changing. A number of women have risen to the top at private equity and venture capital firms and are now running their own funds.
Renuka Ramnath led ICICI Venture for several years before starting Multiples Alternate Asset Management. Archana Hingorani, formerly at IL&FS PE, has also launched her own fund.
Tata Healthcare Fund's Visalakshi Chandramouli, Kalaari Capital's Vani Kola and India Alternatives's Shivani Bhasin Sachdeva have also been trailblazers for women in India's investment space.
Indian women aren't just leading homegrown firms. Anita George heads the Indian business of Canadian pension fund CDPQ, Shveta Jalan is the head of Advent International in India, while Shweta Bhatia heads Asia investments at the Venture Capital and Growth Equity team at Goldman Sachs Investment Partners (GSIP).
Meanwhile, firms such as Lighthouse Funds and Everstone Capital have been building a pipeline of women in leadership roles.
But despite these promising developments, the dealmaking community is still largely dominated by men.
Many domestic and international private equity firms including top funds such as KKR, Blackstone, Apax Partners, TPG Capital, Carlyle and Bain Capital have no women in senior leadership roles, according to their respective websites.
Some of these firms are fully run by men even at junior levels.
“There are examples of many successful women in top roles in PE firms in India," Ritu Kochhar, a consultant at executive search firm Spencer Stuart, where she heads the financial services and PE practice in India.
"It is just that PE firms in India have, in the past, hired from management consulting and i-banking, which are also sectors where there are fewer women. This trend in PE is no different from the broader trend in financial services/management consulting space,” she added.
With PE teams being small in general, opporunities are also limited. In addition, PE roles require plenty of travel among other factors that make it difficult to strike a balance between work and family life.
Kochhar said that this leads many mid-career women to take a step back at work.
“In private equity, you need to build a certain investing track record over time to reach a senior role and if you don't have that track record, it is tough to reach the top,” she said.
However, awareness appears to be on the rise and more PE firms and now working towards achieving gender diversity.
Globally, companies have acknowledged the need to do more. According to a report in The Financial Times earlier this year, PE firms have adopted new initiatives to retain women in their workforces.
These include hiring nannies to fly with the female executives after they return from maternity leave or offering coverage for women seeking to freeze their eggs. Some firms have also set up emergency crèches and child care services.
India is changing its attitude too.
"For search mandates, we have been told that it would be great to get more women candidates," Kochhar said.
However, a lot more still needs to be done.
"Are firms more aware of the need for diversity? Yes. Have they made enough effort? Probably not," she added.