In honour of International Women’s Day on 8 March, PE Hub Europe is running a series of interviews with senior women in private equity.
First up is Natacha Jamar, a managing director in Blackstone’s Corporate Private Equity Group. Jamar has worked on Blackstone’s investments in ICS, Pulse, Versace and ISD, among others.
Blackstone, an alternative asset manager headquartered in New York, has $975 billion of assets under management.
What first attracted you to a career in PE?
In a way, I fell into PE. I applied for a few summer internship positions during my penultimate year in university, and when I got an offer from Blackstone, I took it. Two weeks into my summer internship, I was completely sold. I loved being surrounded by incredibly smart people, but also that my colleagues already expected me to have and voice opinions on deals (even, terrifyingly, in investment committee). Fifteen years later, I hugely value both.
Tell us about your first PE deal.
The first deal I worked on was the acquisition of ICS, a UK clinical staffing business, in 2010. We bought that business and then very quickly did an add-on that doubled the size of the company – so it was a good introduction to buy-and-builds.
I was a first-year analyst, and it seemed both crazy and awesome that I was getting to ask questions and voice my opinions in management meetings. I also had a more senior analyst who very patiently answered all my ‘private equity 101’ questions, which made it an especially good learning experience.
Can you tell us about your journey in a male-dominated industry and your advice for future women leaders?
I’ve always tried not to spend too much time worrying about how I might be at a disadvantage as a woman, and instead focus on how I can turn it into an advantage. Firms are now so keen to attract and retain women, and as a result there are great networking, mentoring and training opportunities. My advice would be to take advantage of these programmes. I’ve been fortunate to meet so many inspiring women at my own and other PE firms, who have become a great support network.
How are PE firms performing on diversity, equity and inclusion?
Delivering lasting positive DE&I change is a massive undertaking. I can’t speak for other firms, but Blackstone has made it a huge priority for not only our own firm, but also the companies we invest in. In 2021, 41 percent of our analyst intake was female. We also believe in using our influence to promote DE&I in our portfolio companies – whether through our commitment to having one third diverse board members at our portfolio companies, or through our career pathways initiative, which supports our portfolio companies in recruiting and advancing employees from diverse backgrounds.
What has changed during your time in the industry?
I think we have softened a bit around the edges – it used to be normal to work through weekends and on holidays on relatively unimportant/time-insensitive projects. We now make a much bigger effort to be more conscientious of everyone’s time. In many respects, I’m grateful for how much hasn’t changed: despite our growth, we still operate in the same small deal teams, and the firm’s entrepreneurial spirit remains as strong.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
With a lot of effort! I had my first son Max in 2020, followed by his younger brother Charlie, and was very unsure about how I would make that work.
Having children has changed the way I work. It forces me to be more disciplined about how I spend my time. Instead of working in the office most evenings, I’m now religious about leaving at 6pm to get home and spend time with my two boys. Once they’re in bed, I log back on to finish my work. I was really worried coming back from my maternity leave about how I would manage, but I’ve been fortunate to work in an organisation and have a boss and team who have been very supportive.
What has enabled Blackstone to maintain its competitive edge?
Without a doubt, the people. I cannot imagine a group of more intelligent, curious, dedicated and nice people, with real integrity – but what really sets us apart is a constant desire to find new ways to grow the business (and beat others to it!). It’s difficult to maintain that calibre of people and special culture when growing as quickly as our firm has, but our leadership has rightly been laser-focused on ensuring that we have.
Editor’s note: PE Hub Europe’s interviews with senior women in private equity will appear throughout March.