IIBN asked Karen O’Mahony Managing Director of PEAL Investment Partners, where is the business based and what is its main focus.

Karen revealed that she founded PEAL Investment Partners Ltd in 2014. The company started life as a private equity consultancy group and then moved into managing private equity minority direct investments. The PEAL office is based in London near Marble Arch and the team is currently all female.

You can visit PEAL Investment Partners Here

What motivated you to start up your own business?

In late 2013, having spent 10 years working on private equity deals for a large family office, I started looking for jobs with Private Equity firms and realised that the candidates being put forward for these roles were usually men with a certain type of background (Investment Banking, McKinsey, Bain etc). These candidates did not always have my experience or track record but at that time, it was all about what the head hunters called “cultural fit.” When I looked at the websites of the potential employers, I noted that senior women in private equity were as rare as hen’s teeth! I wanted to make a difference in my own small way when I set up PEAL so I focused on hiring women who, like me, had all the potential but had not been given the opportunity to enter into the private equity arena.  The figures for women in private equity have improved over the last 5 years but, in 2019, according to Level20 research, just 6% of senior level Private Equity Investors were women therefore we still have progress to make.

In your experience, are there any challenges with your gender? If so, how have you overcome them?

Single greatest challenge? Being a female in the Boardroom. In that environment, a woman who generates new ideas can be perceived as “bolshie” or “overbearing. “I felt that I needed to change my approach and collaborate more with my fellow Directors. Making quiet suggestions before the Board meetings worked much better. It allowed my peers use their influence to present it as a joint idea and together we would get more traction. It softened my approach whilst also getting the job done and to me, that is what matters most.

Do you have any career advice you would like to share with other women?

I have two pieces of advice:

Many years ago when I asked my father how much of his job he liked, he instantly said, “90%.” I realized that something needed to change as, at that time, I was only enjoying 25% of my job. Over the next number of years, I did a postgrad and moved jobs twice until I finally found my 90% job!  My advice – try and forget about brand/title/money and search for a role/company where you like 90% of what you do and then the success will come naturally. As the percentage slips away from 90%, ask your employer to make small changes to the role and if that does not work, go back out into the job market and find a better fit. Today, even on bad days, I love jumping out of bed to go to work and that is really important!

Men find us intimidating as they are watching times changing (relatively) quickly from the side-lines. They are sometimes afraid to say, do or act in the wrong way. Try and use humour to put them at ease. Ask them about their families, hobbies and build a rapport. My fear with PEAL is that we may be creating a “them” and “us” situation. And that is NOT what we want to do at all! I would not be where I am today without the help of many male mentors, bosses, advisors and friends! Let’s not forget about those key professional relationships and keep them up as our careers evolve.

Can you give us any inspiration quotes/values that you think are important as a female business owner?

Perseverance + Energy + Ability  = Limitless Opportunities     (This is our motto at PEAL).

An office without laughter makes work very dull – even when the pressure is on, take time out to make you colleagues smile!

Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and Founder of LeanIn.Org) “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Women need to collaborate more, support one another more and in some cases be kinder to one another because as each woman individually progresses, we all rise.

‘Each For Equal’ is the slogan for this year’s International Women’s Day – what does this mean to you?

For me, equality allows us to make better decisions in business. Hiring people from all backgrounds and ensuring equality across gender, educational backgrounds and race allows for different perspectives and expertise to be brought to the table. That can only be a good thing!

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