IK Partners’ Morgane Bouhenic: Plenty of room for women in PE

Bouhenic believes diversity is important for the success of any company, as it widens the talent pool and improves the decision-making process.

Morgane Bouhenic’s curious nature and her love for entrepreneur stories led her to private equity, she told PE Hub Europe in the latest in our series on senior women in private equity. Now a partner at IK Partners’ small-cap investment team in Paris, Bouhenic has gathered experience from working at firms such as Bridgepoint and LEK Consulting.

“When I discovered private equity is not just about making good returns from the money that we invest, but also about speeding up the progress of these companies to take them to the next level – I knew this is what I wanted to do,” she said.

Bouhenic’s first deal solidified her interest in the industry. The target was a software company at a time when the industry was not quite as familiar with that sector as it is today, she said. “It was very technical and not an easy one. It was a very competitive auction, with both European and American funds.”

This led to some late but rewarding nights, trying to push the deal across the finish line. Bouhenic recalls being impressed by the creative and fast thinkers in the room; people who were always able to be one step forward. “I remember I was totally fascinated, I loved every moment. That was a great first experience, of course, but also great experience per se.”

But it wasn’t all perfect. “Even if I knew I was in the right room, I also remember being the only woman. Our team was only made of men, the advisers were all men and the management team was all men.”

“It felt a little surprising being the only woman in that room – there was no reason for this. And on these days when I thought about the future of the industry, I would definitely see myself seated in that same room but surrounded by more women.”

Long way to go

In Europe, only 20 percent of investment professional are women, and that figure falls to 10 percent at the senior level, according to the Level 20 European Gender Diversity Report 2022. While those numbers are not anything to write home about, Level 20 noted that at junior level at least, women make up 34 percent of investment professionals.

The industry also needs to work harder to retain those junior level women, she said. “We need to do more; we need to get better. Otherwise, we lose not only talent, but also the attractiveness in the competitive job market for new graduates.”

Bouhenic stressed that raising diversity figures is not just about filling a quota. “I strongly believe diversity – and not just gender diversity – is important for the success of any company, as it widens the talent pool and it improves decision-making processes,” she explained.

One way to get more women involved is to break some stereotypes around an industry that, according to Bouhenic, is “a bit dusty, and a bit grey-haired, but it is changing”.

“There is a place for everyone in this industry, and you don’t have to do it at the expense of not having friends or a family life,” she said. “If you want to do it, just go for it. There’s plenty of room for you.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article attributed industry-wide figures to IK Partners – this has been amended.

PE Hub Europe’s interviews with senior women in private equity will appear throughout March. Read our interview with Sullivan Street’s Zeina Bain here.