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Women in business champion

Q&A with Janki Lalani Gandhi

Janki Lalani GandhiJanki Lalani Gandhi, managing director of Lincoln International LLC, on making investment banking a more attractive career for women. 







Q: How can flexible working practices enable talent retention?

In investment banking, the question often crops up, how can we make it more attractive and flexible for professional women with families?

The reality is that the standards that have been set in investment banking over the years do not allow for execution bankers to work part-time; when we’re working on live deals, the dynamics of a number of parties take precedent and the deal is ever-changing until the close.

But rather than focusing on the fact that women take time off to have children, companies need to think more long-term and value what they add to a business; having gone through it first-hand at a prior firm, this is the oversight that many firms make.

The organisation might say that women are valued, but from a practical perspective the company has to be willing to evolve with the employee as her life evolves.  To ensure that the best talent feels empowered – and this relates to both women and men – both the employee and the company have to be committed to an ongoing conversation about balance.

The company should regularly consider its culture and programs, so that professionals feel they can succeed at work and at home. Equally important, the employee should be transparent and forthright with the company if feeling challenged and take the lead on recommending solutions that will help overcome.

Q: What evidence is there that diversity leads to better business performance?

Lincoln has a phenomenal culture and the whole ethos of the firm is about inclusiveness to achieve collective success. The target market for the majority of consumer businesses we work with and the industries I cover – which include beauty and personal care and fashion apparel and accessories – are women. Not only can I offer a female perspective, but more than that, I am able to relate to clients in a more meaningful way because of the other connections we share – from background to areas of interest.

What’s really interesting and progressive from my perspective is that most of the emerging consumer brands that I come across are businesses run by women. In beauty, for example, it’s not always men in an R&D lab trying to second guess what women want; it’s authentic and that’s really compelling. When I started out in this space, most of the senior women you came across were creative directors and designers but they weren’t the ones ultimately making the decisions. Things have changed a lot, although there is still a long way to go.

Q: What role can recruitment play in advancing women at senior levels?

One of my very close friends is the CFO of a company and she makes a point of hiring as many female advisors as she can. Her view is, if women won’t hire women, how can we expect men to? This isn’t about nepotism or choosing women over men for the sake of it, but if they have the right qualifications, women can bring unique value and add relationship-building prowess.

Q: How can mentors help women advance their careers?

Mentors are hugely important to helping you evolve as an individual. For me, it’s been more about building stronger relationships with professional women 10 or 20 years older in time-intensive careers, and hearing about how they found solutions to make career and family balance has been really valuable. It helps people look at their own path and consider alternative means and gives people comfort that there are others who are challenged in the same ways.

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