By Amber Walsh and Penny Zacharias

The impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving behind is still coming to light. As the long-term and short-term impacts become more evident, it’s clear that working women represent one of the demographic groups more adversely affected by the pandemic in ways that include employment, leadership, and funding.

Consider just the following statistics:

  • By January 2021, the U.S. female workforce participation dropped below 56% — the lowest level since 1987. (PIIE)
  • It is estimated that there are 1.8 million fewer women in the labor force than before the pandemic. (NPR) One in four women are considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers versus one in five men. (McKinsey & Co.)
  • In 2020, venture capital funding to female founders declined 31% from 2019 while funding for all-male teams dropped by 16%. Female founders had been experiencing faster increases in deals and value compared to their male counterparts in 2019. (PitchBook)
  • Female-founded companies raised $3.31 billion in 2020, or 2.2% of the year’s total sum. This is compared to $3.5 billion and 2.6% in 2019. In other words, an already paltry percentage declined. (Fortune)

Unfortunately, we’ve witnessed similar trends extending to women in private equity. Many women who were working in private equity — including those in leadership positions or moving up the ranks — have left the industry.  And the pipeline of female talent pursuing careers in private equity has slowed.

So, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to lose some ground in the advancement of women in private equity and other professional women.  But we are hopeful that downward trend will be reversed. For the past few years, we have published multiple series in which we profile women leaders in private equity. These interviews are one of the ways we demonstrate our support for the advancement of professional women and hope to help expand the leadership of women in private equity.  This work — and similar work being undertaken by other advocates — has taken on even greater importance following the events of the past year. COVID-19 has stalled and rolled back women’s economic gains of recent decades. It is imperative that those working within private equity and in support of the industry not just acknowledge these effects but take deliberate action to reverse them. Growing the number of women in private equity and providing leadership opportunities for such women is not only the right thing to do, but research shows that this benefits the firms that employ women and the companies in which they invest.

At McGuireWoods, we will continue to shine a spotlight on women in private equity. We hope that drawing more attention to the inequalities will help overcome these professional obstacles and reverse some of the troubling trends that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for working women generally. If you are interested in participating in one of our series or would like to recommend a female equity investor for profile, please email Amber Walsh at