The time is now. Real change, real impact, seize the moment. KPMG takes a deep dive on the issue of Women in Alternative Investments.

When we first launched the Women in Alternative Investments Report (WAI Report) in 2011, we were among the few voices talking about women’s advancement in alternative investments. It was a delicate conversation and one that few people were comfortable having. But now, eight years later, the conversation has shifted. The issues have moved mainstream, the dialogue has broadened and the voices are many. The needle may not have moved substantially, but change is afoot.  

And so this year we too are making change. This year, the WAI Report is about action. This year, we expose gaps in perception across gender to lay the groundwork for shared understanding. We spotlight investors’ increased focus on diversity in the hope that it sours others to action. And we outline firm diversity practices to show others the way forward in their own efforts. But we could not do any of these without having a truly inclusive conversation about gender diversity. Thus, for the first time, we surveyed men (and not solely women) about their thoughts on gender diversity in alternative investments. 

The quest for gender diversity is not a simple or easy one. It will be a long journey, and women alone cannot do it. Everyone needs to join — women, men, firm leaders, and investors — if the goal is to be achieved. 

Given the need for joint effort, it is fitting that we reached a record number of respondents — 886 — across genders and from nearly every major geographic region and sector within alternatives — hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, and real estate, as well as investors. 

This year we break from the past in many ways. We spotlight initiatives that upset established norms, approaches that reframe the conversation (from “women’s issues” to “everyone’s issues”) and programs that have begun to effect real change. Investors are driving change, firms are answering the call and individuals are taking responsibility. We hope you will join us and answer the call to act. 

Bridging the gap

Given that research has repeatedly shown that diversity of opinions and backgrounds leads to better decisions, it is not surprising that the overwhelming majority of women and men respondents (84 and 76 percent, respectively) agree that achieving gender diversity is a business imperative. But although most women and men agree diversity is important, they differ on whether enough is being done to improve diversity by their sector and their firm. Women respondents are considerably less satisfied than men respondents with the actions being taken. 

On a firm level, both male and female respondents are rather optimistic about their firm’s belief in the importance of diversity, with half or more of women (50 percent) and men (65 percent) believing their leadership team sees diversity as an important part of firm business strategy. However, there is a significant gap in perception between genders on this point as well.

The greatest debate is over the question of whether respondents’ firms are doing enough to improve gender diversity. Men are significantly more likely than women respondents to say their firm is doing enough to advance gender diversity.

About the report

It is possible that men may be more willing to assume that because a diversity commitment is made or a policy is in place, it must be helping. However, many women respondents said they question their firm’s stated commitment to diversity because it isn’t backed up with action or meaningful progress. If the genders do not agree on the level of action needed to advance diversity, then it will be harder to take the bold steps required to effect change

Click here for the full KPMG report.

Camille Asaro, KPMG Leader, WomenCorporateDirectors , KPMG US

Kelly Rau, Partner, Audit, Alternative Investments, KPMG US