Earlier this year affiliate publications across PEI Media published a list of 60 women of influence in private markets. Some had made a significant contribution to sustainability in private markets, whether that be by orienting their investment strategies towards positive outcomes or pointing their own operations towards more sustainable practices. Here are 14:
As managing partner of BKR Capital, Lise Birikundavyi is understood to be the first Black woman to lead an institutionally backed VC fund in Canada. BKR’s first fund invests in pre-seed and seed-stage Canadian tech companies with Black founders. Peers describe her as having created “a more inclusive VC space without compromising on performance”. Birikundavyi, who says she is “a firm believer in using the forces of capital markets as a basis for more inclusive wealth creation and sustainable poverty alleviation”, also mentors impactful start-ups in emerging markets.
Supply Change Capital
As co-founding managing partner of Supply Change Capital, Noramay Cadena’s investment thesis centres on the two forces impacting the food system: culture and climate. Cadena found that rising multiculturalism in the US is having a deep impact on the food industry’s demand side, while climate change is affecting the supply side. Cadena is also a lead investor in Portfolia’s Rising America Fund, which invests in people of colour and LGBTQ founders, and she is a founding board member of LatinxVC, which is dedicated to fostering the Latinx venture ecosystem.
Pam Chan co-founded the Alternative Solutions Group within BlackRock Alternative Investors in 2013. As chief investment officer and global head of ASG, Chan oversees the investment management of ASG’s portfolios, which include the BlackRock Impact Opportunities Fund, a multi-alternatives strategy that invests in companies and projects owned or led by Black, Latinx or Native American teams, or serving those communities. Chan has played a key role in developing strategies at ASG that support undercapitalised communities. Chan also sits on a number of BlackRock committees, including its global DE&I steering group.
As managing partner and head of investor solutions, Nicole Downer spearheads all fundraising and product development efforts at MV Credit. In the past year, she has closed the firm’s first commingled senior debt fund and overseen the launch of an open-end private debt solution. An advocate for equality, Downer has been instrumental in implementing DE&I initiatives, including a menopause policy. She also applies this passion to MV’s investment strategy, having launched an initiative to link the firm’s latest fund’s performance fee and carried interest to ESG-linked KPIs.
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Under Anne Fossemalle’s leadership as director, equity funds, EBRD has doubled the size of its portfolio while bolstering the ESG assessment of funds. Fossemalle recently served as chair of Invest Europe, where she remains a member of the board, and was also a member of the board of ILPA for four years. Through her roles, Fossemalle has emphasised the importance of industry collaboration and PE’s transformative potential, particularly the role it can play in achieving ESG objectives.
After experiencing life-threatening complications while giving birth to her daughter – now a healthy 13-year-old – Maneesha Ghiya dedicated herself to creating an investment vehicle focused solely on women’s health. In 2021, the FemHealth Ventures’ founder and managing partner led the firm to its first close, and in 2019 she developed and published a framework that redefines women’s health and provides a new lens through which to approach it. Ghiya has two decades of experience as a venture capitalist and investor at hedge funds, investing $1 billion across more than 100 public and private healthcare companies.
Gayle Jennings-O’Byrne’s impressive resume includes more than three decades of Wall Street, technology, philanthropy, training and professional speaker experience. Today she is co-founder and general partner at WOCstar Fund, an early-stage vehicle focused on tech innovation being brought to market by inclusive teams and women of colour. Jennings-O’Byrne also co-founded Ally Capital Collab, through which funds led by women of colour are working together to address systemic capital raising challenges. She is also one of Wharton Social Impact’s Nazarian Social Innovators-in-Residence.
Carolyn Pearce is a managing director at Stonepeak, but the London-based professional has made her mark by spearheading an industry-wide social mobility initiative from the Infrastructure Industry Foundation, an organisation that she helped to establish in 2019. The initiative, in partnership with Sutton Trust, aims to increase social mobility across infrastructure by broadening the talent pool and directly supporting students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds. At Stonepeak, Pearce holds a hybrid leadership role across investor relations, operations and ESG, and has made an early impact since joining from Infracapital in October 2021.
APG Asset Management
APG is a PE giant, ranking fifth in PEI’s latest GI 100 list of the biggest investors in the asset class. Keren Raz is senior responsible investments manager for PE, hedge funds and private credit at APG, where she led the ESG underwriting on almost 50 deals last year. Raz has been a driving force in the ESG Data Convergence Project, an initiative that aligns LPs and GPs on reporting performance-based ESG metrics. Peers say she was instrumental in developing APG’s “forward-thinking” approach to assessing climate risk in PE.
Peers describe Amy Ridge, a partner in Mercer’s alternatives business, as “a trailblazer”. As well as leading portfolio management for institutional investors’ private market portfolios, Ridge helped launch Mercer’s DE&I services. Ridge is passionate about driving market change and is dedicated to discovering and increasing exposure to diverse managers. Her passion, say colleagues, is “contagious”. Ridge also champions DE&I in alternatives by mentoring; taking part in panels and podcasts; and participating in industry networks and initiatives, such as the West Coast Chapter of the Women’s Association of Venture and Equity.
Since relocating to Europe from Asia in 2021, Tracy Stroh, GIC managing director and region head for Europe, has overseen hundreds of real estate transactions and led several transformational projects, in addition to managing GIC’s investments across real estate sectors. Described by peers as “passionate about workplace diversity and inclusion”, Stroh has helped implement projects such as Women in GIC, a taskforce working towards a more gender-balanced organisation. She is also a member of GIC Real Estate’s sustainability and global investment committees.
A mission-driven advocate of sustainability, ESG and diversity, Jessica Thompson joined the IFM New York team in 2014. She has since been promoted twice and currently holds the role of executive director and deputy head of North America Infrastructure Debt. Managing a team of eight, Thompson is described as a “role model” for her team and “never sees any problem as too small and no one as beneath her”, says a supporter. Alongside keeping a pulse on the market, and originating and executing deals, Thompson works beyond the scope of her day-to-day role to help IFM continue to grow.
Maria Teresa Zappia
Maria Teresa Zappia is deputy CEO, chief impact and blended finance officer at BlueOrchard, an impact investment manager that is part of the Schroders group. Zappia, who was appointed head of sustainability and impact at Schroders Capital last year, is understood to have been instrumental in raising BlueOrchard’s covid-19 support fund for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in emerging markets. Her leadership extends to the wider impact ecosystem, where she has contributed to the Just Transition agenda. She is convenor of the Impact Principles Advisory Board, sits on the Impact Investing Institute’s Advisory Council, and is a member of the G7 Impact Taskforce.
Christine Vanden Beukel
Crescent Capital Group
Christine Vanden Beukel is a passionate advocate for ESG, which shines through within her roles as managing director and head of European credit markets, ESG strategy and policy development at Crescent Capital. Her achievements include developing a portfolio company survey to track ESG metrics, as well as leading her European private credit team to record deployment in 2021, more than double any previous year. Vanden Beukel has extensive experience in senior loans, second lien, mezzanine, high-yield bonds, securities and special situations. Peers describe her as “someone many turn to for guidance and career advice”.