UVA Darden Alumna a Beacon of Change for Male-Dominated Private Equity Industry

By Jay Hodgkins

University of Virginia Darden School of Business alumna Marcia Mao (MBA ’15) has managed a career feat that defies the odds in at least two ways — breaking into the upper tier of a private equity industry that offers entry to few recent MBA graduates and is among the most male-dominated of any field globally.

Mao was recently profiled on the Alumni Spotlight section of the Darden website, and discussed issues of gender in private equity.

According to a 2017 report from data provider Prequin, women held just 18 percent of investment positions in global private equity, which is less than venture capital firms and hedge funds.

“There are lots of super talented women in the investment world, but it’s pretty challenging for a woman to manage her work-life balance because society usually expects women to take care of the family, more so than men,” says Mao.

She believes the lack of gender diversity is a problem for private equity firms because an abundance of research has proven that diverse perspectives yield alpha. A report from the International Finance Corporation found that investment funds with gender-balanced senior teams achieved 10–20 percent higher returns than unbalanced teams, for example.

“We need more female investment leaders as they bring different value to a fund,” says Mao.

Mao also discussed the challenge of private equity investing in China in the current market.

She hopes to bring market-beating returns to Zenity Capital in what has, until recently, been a boom time for the Chinese private equity industry. In the past few years, scores of new funds were launched as the country’s technology companies achieved sky-high valuations.

However, Chinese private equity firms have more recently been stung by the tighter availability of credit and a sputtering IPO market, causing a fall in fundraising and of funds cashing in on investments.

Mao believes her strategy insulates her fund from these broader market woes. Zenity Capital invests in both growth-stage and maturity-stage companies, rather than backing companies based on the potential of their overall industry, which leaves investors vulnerable to wider industry wobbles.

“Early stage investing is more about the industry.” says Mao. “Growth-stage investing is really challenging for personal investment capability in terms of identifying a good company with high potential, then evaluating its founders, team, management styles and the company’s fundamentals, which varies by each investor.”

Read the full profile on Darden’s Alumni Spotlight. 

East Asia
About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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