Celebrating the transformation in M&A for International Women’s Day

Oaklins’ female executives share their insights

As we approach International Women’s Day, it’s a fitting time to reflect on the progress we’ve made towards a more equitable world. At Oaklins, embracing equality and diversity isn’t just a policy; it’s a practice woven into the fabric of our culture.

My own journey with Oaklins for over 15 years is a testament to this. Initially, the scarcity of female colleagues was intimidating, but it quickly became clear that my voice was valued and my expertise trusted. Today, it’s a different panorama, one where talented women contribute to every facet of our work, and their presence is not just welcomed, it’s integral. And I always find it very rewarding to interview my female colleagues as we advance together. MELANIE BERTHELOT-VERHAEGHE, HEAD OF MARKETING & BRANDING, OAKLINS INTERNATIONAL

We're proud to share insights from Vera Pinto, Director, and Mariana Gomez, Associate Director at Oaklins Portugal. They bring to light the progressive nature of M&A and its welcoming doors for ambitious women.

Can you tell us about your background and how you got into the field of M&A?

MARIANA: My academic path took me from a degree in Business to a Master in Finance, sparking my affinity for the dynamic and challenging world of corporate finance. A pivotal M&A internship at a renowned global bank cemented my decision to specialize in this sector. What I particularly enjoy about M&A is its dual nature — it’s as much about numbers and analytics as it is about people. It’s the balance between analytical thinking and the interpersonal connections we get to make that really attracted me.

VERA: After finishing my degree in Management, I started working in auditing at one of the Big 4 firms operating in Portugal. Seeking deeper client engagement, I transitioned to their corporate finance team. Today, I consider that starting in auditing gave me a strong technical and analytical background, which I deem crucial for a job in M&A. It wasn’t long before I joined an M&A boutique, which ultimately led me to Oaklins Portugal. There, my passion deepened as I became deeply involved in M&A projects across diverse sectors, energized by the varied work and the extensive collaboration with stakeholders at all levels.

In addition to the essential skills needed in corporate finance, could you share any unique skills you believe women bring to the industry?

VERA: Regardless of gender, succeeding in corporate finance, especially in M&A, requires a solid financial and analytical background. While technical expertise is essential, proactive engagement and effective communication skills are equally invaluable characteristics.

In my opinion, a blend of a strong financial background and the ability to communicate effectively with clients not only instills confidence in your work but also builds trust, which is crucial in this industry. Additionally, women tend to be more intuitive and this can provide benefits in M&A transactions, offering valuable perspectives and facilitating decision-making procedures.

Can you describe specific policies or practices your office has implemented to support and advance women in the workplace?

Oaklins Portugal promotes a culture that goes beyond gender distinctions, emphasizing meritocracy and individual contributions. The firm’s commitment to work-life balance, offering flexibility, has been crucial for me, enabling a seamless integration of professional and personal commitments. VERA PINTO, DIRECTOR, OAKLINS PORTUGAL

Do you believe that a more diverse workforce in M&A would benefit the industry as a whole?

MARIANA: Without a doubt — diversifying the M&A sector is not only beneficial but essential. It moves us beyond outdated “boys’ club” dynamics and directly contributes to the quality of our work. Diversity transcends gender; it encompasses a broad spectrum of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. A diverse team is equipped to approach challenges from multiple angles, fostering creativity and innovation. This diversity is critical not just for fostering a positive and inclusive work environment but also for the strategic insights it brings to our deals. It enriches our perspectives, enabling us to offer more comprehensive and insightful advice, which is fundamental to the success and growth of our clients’ businesses.

What motivates you to stay in M&A?

The impact of our work on clients’ lives and businesses keeps me motivated. The versatility of M&A has offered me exposure to various industries, extending my skills and allowing me to make significant contributions to our clients’ growth. MARIANA GOMES, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, OAKLINS PORTUGAL

VERA: The dynamic, ever-evolving nature of M&A, filled with learning and growth opportunities, drives my commitment. The satisfaction of guiding strategic decisions and facilitating value-generating deals fuels my dedication to the field. Each transaction presents unique complexities and opportunities, keeping me engaged and driven to overcome new obstacles.

How do you balance the demands of your career with your personal life and responsibilities?

MARIANA: Navigating the demands of a career in M&A while maintaining a fulfilling personal life is certainly demanding. I believe the key lies in having supportive surroundings both professionally and at home — effective time management, setting clear priorities and crafting a personal equilibrium are all vital. At Oaklins, I’ve found an environment that values flexibility, allowing me to seamlessly align my professional duties with my personal life. Championing work-life balance is not just a personal stance but a corporate commitment, and this ethos is instrumental in empowering and inspiring women in the workplace.

How would you coach or advise junior female bankers?

VERA: In mentoring junior female bankers in the field of M&A, I emphasize the critical importance of developing robust technical and analytical skills while maintaining a proactive attitude. Collaboration within teams is also a key focus, as it enhances effectiveness and fosters a supportive environment. By honing these attributes and adopting a proactive mindset, they can navigate the dynamic and demanding landscape of M&A with confidence.

From your perspective, why should more women choose a career in M&A? What are the benefits?

MARIANA: My experience in M&A has convinced me that more women should pursue careers in this field, as it provides a dynamic environment full of growth opportunities. M&A is not just about numbers; it’s a field that merges finance, accounting, strategy and business expertise, demanding a mix of analytical skill, effective communication and strong teamwork. It is a very challenging area, filled with diverse projects that offer exposure to various industries and companies. This not only pushes personal and professional limits but also provides a platform to significantly impact the future of businesses and industries. Encouraging more women to enter M&A means leveraging their unique capabilities to enrich the field, drive innovation and lead businesses towards new horizons.

Vera pinto
Vera Pinto Lisbon, Portugal
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Mariana Gomes Lisbon, Portugal
Associate Director
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This International Women’s Day, we not only honor the achievements of our female leaders but also invite you to join us in pushing for gender parity.

Let's continue to #InspireInclusion and celebrate the unique contributions women make to M&A. Together, we can build a financial world that is not only diverse but truly inclusive.

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