By Bola Osakwe Dec 11, 2015
Last week, as I watched KKR Member Alisa Wood being interviewed on Bloomberg TV, I was simultaneously preparing for KKR’s inaugural Diversity Insights Program. I honed in on an important point Alisa made regarding diversity in the private equity industry. Yes, studies show that diversity of thought leads to better investment results. Yes, performance is better when there are different people with different perspectives sitting around the same table. And yes, these are all points that our broader industry has recognized as true and has consequently taken on in their investment approach. Nonetheless, there is still work that needs to be done in this effort, particularly in our recruiting process.
At KKR, we’ve realized that we need to broaden what we consider our pool of qualified experienced candidates in the work force. While private equity firms typically hire from investment banks or consulting firms, historically these pools have had a limited number of diverse candidates. Therefore, if we keep hiring from those same pools, we’re not seeing the full extent of the talent we could be considering. It is for this reason we have decided to be more creative to find more diverse talent pools and skillsets that we believe will ultimately make our firm more successful.
Last week’s first-ever MBA Diversity Insights Program is a great example of this. On Friday, we hosted almost 50 Black, Hispanic and Female first year MBA’s from 12 of the leading business schools across the country. The program provided these students with an opportunity to learn about our Firm’s business and culture, network with executives and gain early access and education to our career opportunities at KKR.
After evaluating our talent funnel and recognizing that it is too narrow and brain storming an innovative solution to begin attacking the problem, we decided to take a step in the direction to broaden it. But our work doesn’t stop there. We view this program as only a first step in advancing diversity and inclusion across our firm. Ultimately, once we make a new hire, we want to integrate them, better understand what’s important to them, and ensure we have an inclusive environment, so they fully feel part of the organization.
Having only joined the Firm a few months ago, I can already see the progress KKR has made in this respect. In my role, I am fully dedicated to furthering the Firm’s goals around inclusion and diversity, with a major area of focus being diversity recruiting at all levels. While this is only part of my job description, it is a shared responsibility across the Firm and is recognized as a key business imperative. Before I even joined, KKR had established an Inclusion & Diversity Council (IDC) to address this issue, amongst others, in the private equity industry head on.
Enhancing our efforts in regards to professional development, recruitment, advancement and retention are among numerous areas in which we’ve begun to focus our efforts to advance our goal of becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization. We continue to work to identify and implement other ‘best-in-class’ practices to drive greater diversity across our Firm and, ultimately, the financial industry as a whole.