In search of an investment mentrix
August 29, 2011 8:04 AM   Subscribe

How can I find a female private equity/venture capital mentor in the NYC area?

I've been working at a small private equity firm for 3 years, and I'm reaching a point where I've achieved many of the more concrete progress milestones I can think of, and need some guidance from someone more senior in the industry.

Wrinkles include:
1) my superiors at this firm are pleasant and well-meaning, but very vague in their responses to my requests for advice;
2) I'm starting to feel that I have a more difficult time establishing a rapport with my colleagues (both within the firm and with other professionals we work with) due to the fact that they are all (literally, all) married men 10 to 40 years older than me and the topics of conversation (sports, children, industry war stories) are difficult for me to participate in;
3) I've had excellent performance reviews the past 3 years, but recently the powers-that-be have indicated that they would like me to "take more initiative" (see 1)
4) I'm on the tail end of some depression and anxiety issues, so while I'm being proactive about taking care of myself and getting back to 100%, it'll take me a while to be in a place where I'm confident blindly approaching people in nonspecific networking settings.

85 Broads and WAVE don't seem to have resources for finding and contacting a mentor. Do you, hivemind, know any organizations that do?

Please note that I have decided upon and am specifically looking for a woman as mentor (mentress? mentrix?) and am not looking for advice such as "learn about sports so you can talk about them to the menz." Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You may want to expand your mentorship search to include women in male-dominated fields other than private equity, because some (if not all!) of the issues are going to be similar. What about checking your college/grad school's alumni magazines for women who have succeeded in male dominated fields? Included older women (60s-70s) in your search; any of them who were successful in businessness probably had to deal with all of what you're going through.

There are also some good books on the subject. Two suggestions: Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office and Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide.

After reading those two books, you may have a better understanding of the meaning of "take more initiative" and why the directive was given so vaguely. (Hint: it's because the whole point of "initiative" is that you do it on your own rather than waiting for direction. But there's also a lot of gender baggage in the perception of "initiative" and its expression in the workplace.)

More practically on the initiative front, take a look at the office stars, the one just a few years ahead of you. How do they take initiative? Do that.
posted by yarly at 8:54 AM on August 29, 2011

I seem to recall Fred Wilson's wife having something to do with a female vc group in NYC. His blog is; you should be able to find hers via it. Hope that helps.
posted by dfriedman at 9:33 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: Fred Wilson's wife is the one that came to mind to me too. She goes by "GothamGal" on pretty much every social platform.

Another person, that might not be a mentor, but a comrade, would be Christina Cacioppo (she is the new-ish junior level person at Union Square Ventures). So she works for Fred Wilson.

I know other female VC folks but they are in LA or NorCal...
posted by milqman at 9:54 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: I don't know if you'll find a formalized mentor program, but why not just start reaching out to other women in the industry yourself? In my experience on the buyside (both in private and public equity), most people are more than happy to chat with young professionals seeking advice. It helps to have some commonality, like you went to the same school or you have a mutual friend or worked on the same deal. But the experience of being a woman in a male-heavy industry is probably better than most other connections.

Just email women who you'd like to meet at other firms and ask to chat about career advice over lunch or coffee. I'd target people who are a couple notches senior to you instead of the most senior people in the firm; those are the people who will perceive more mutual benefit in networking with you. Don't worry about trying to make just one person your mentor--focus on building a network of interesting contacts and keep up with those people.

I think it'd also make sense to meet with female investment bankers, as they are likely to have a ton of contacts on the buyside as well as facing similar issues themselves.
posted by mullacc at 11:02 AM on August 29, 2011

While it won't replace a real-live human mentor, as mentioned above, Women Don't Ask is a pretty great read for women in any field, especially male-dominated ones.
posted by janet lynn at 11:28 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check out 100 women in hedge funds. It's not exactly what you described, but if all else fails, you could meet some women who have similar experience and perhaps find a mentor. Full membership is strict in that you have to work for a hedge fund, but they have a Supporter membership that would allow you to join and attend events. The connections could be worth it.

I have personally never been to an event, but a few former (female) colleagues have been to some events and found it worthwhile.
posted by getmetoSF at 7:01 PM on August 29, 2011

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