How to improve equity in mergers and acquisitions

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Despite current market conditions and the prospect of shrinking profits, some companies continue to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, even as a recession looms.

While this is encouraging news, it’s something we’ve noticed for some time, particularly when it comes to financial services and mergers and acquisitions (M&A). While much more progress needs to be made, new evidence suggests a more equitable landscape is emerging. At Exponent’s annual Exchange event, I shared some of the following details that show the changes in M&A activity.

Diversity, equality and inclusion matter in M&A

22% of the 600 global deal makers Datasite surveyed reported seeing a deal fall apart in the past year due to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues uncovered in the due diligence process. Several respondents cited HR recruitment, development and retention policies as the biggest DEI risk for a deal, followed by sexual harassment allegations. However, DEI is still not considered as big a threat as other risks to an M&A deal, but new research reveals how a company’s culture can affect both its performance and value.

PPC plays a role in the workplace

However, DEI does not only matter in the context of an agreement. It also matters in the context of the workplace we all inhabit every day — whether virtually or in person. Significant progress has been made in terms of women’s representation in trade. In our latest survey, 44% of respondents identified as female, including 49% from the Millennial generation.


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What’s more, according to our research, while both genders ask for promotions equally, women are 5% more likely to be offered a promotion and experience faster career progression to manager level than men. In addition, more women than men reported receiving a base salary increase of 16 percent or more last year, although overall increases for men and women last year remain unevenly distributed.

Work that still remains to be done

However, it’s not all good news. We also found that more women than men in M&A — 30% compared to 26% respectively — are actively looking for other jobs. Between the competing factors of the current mass attrition and the M&A talent crisis, these rates can add up quickly. Our research also found that men continue to dominate M&A in senior management and executives. Additionally, 40% or more of both genders do not seek promotion due to workload and travel concerns.

Finally, children and childcare are areas that deserve more attention. Most M&A professionals reported having children under the age of 18, including 10% more men than women. What is particularly interesting, however, is that more than 50% of both men and women consider themselves the primary caregivers of children 18 and under. During the height of the pandemic, more women than men in M&A — and in many other companies and sectors — reported feeling burned out as a result of taking more care in their personal lives. Now, however, both genders appear to be managing multiple responsibilities, something contracting organizations will want to consider as they seek to retain and cultivate talent.

What else can bargaining organizations do to create and support greater equality, both within an agreement and in the workplace? Here are some ideas:

Encourage men’s use of family-friendly benefits

Organizations should encourage men to take advantage of family-friendly policies, including parental leave. Even if it is offered, men are less likely to use parental leave because of financial costs, gender expectations, or fear that it could damage their careers. However, research shows that there are physical, emotional and financial benefits for men who take parental leave, including the fact that they are more likely to be equal partners in raising their children.


Global deal makers have said they are unsure how to show alliance with people from diverse backgrounds, with 20% citing fears about how to engage appropriately as the biggest factor holding them back. To find, promote and elevate M&A talent, managers must support educational efforts about why inclusion is important and how to be an ally. For example, we have created a learning-oriented culture that fosters openness, empathy, curiosity and adaptability, which improves diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Our DEI Council is an employee-led, cross-functional, global group that drives DEI across the company. By including employees in this effort, we hope to create a shared responsibility to foster a culture where every employee can bring their best to work every day and provide a space for employees to learn together and one of the other, which leads to greater cooperation and understanding and belonging.

Embrace flexibility

The pandemic has shown us that many activities can be done remotely. We’ve seen this from an organization’s perspective and through our customers. There are, of course, parts of dealmaking that benefit from in-person meetings, especially when it comes to cultivating new relationships, but virtual dealmaking works.

Start a female genius club

Refer to female coworkers as “geniuses.” The thinking behind this is that calling a female colleague a genius in passing conversations and discussions helps build her credibility and elevates her. Just think how describing a female co-worker as a genius might turn out to be the next time she’s being considered for a job, a job, or a promotion. It’s a small act that can have a powerful effect.

Creating lasting and sustainable value will always be a sound investment strategy. And when it comes to mergers and acquisitions, organizations that prioritize DEI’s efforts and resources will help achieve successful business outcomes.

Deb LaMere is Datasite’s Chief Human Resources Officer.


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