Our Brazilian offices rise above the gender gap in M&A
Oaklins' female executives share their insights
In the dynamic domain of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), male dominance often casts a long shadow, yet the narrative spun by our Brazilian team is one of inspiration mingled with challenge. As Brazil wrestles with a gender gap index score of 0.696, translating to a 30% gender disparity, Oaklins Brazil emerges as a pioneer of change. Driven by the conviction that gender should never be a barrier to opportunity, we are eager to highlight the remarkable women who have progressed through the ranks, defying industry conventions.
Our Brazilian offices have the highest number of female executives among all Oaklins offices globally. We wanted to delve into the strategies that have contributed to this success, which cultivates a diverse and vibrant work environment. As we prepare for our annual conference in São Paulo this month, we would like to emphasize the significance of gender equality and offer inspiration for the industry at large.
This article takes you on a journey through our São Paulo offices, where we unveil the narratives of Priscila Rosas and Sophia Prado, Partners at Oaklins Fortezza Partners, and Sara Rezende, Director at Oaklins Olimpia Partners. They share their stories, strategies, and insights will be shared, painting a vivid picture of resilience, ambition, and achievement.
One of the foundational pillars of our firm is the power of diversity. Fortezza, signifying 'strength' in Italian, perfectly encapsulates our ethos, as we perceive diversity as a formidable source of strength. Since establishing our firm five years ago, our unwavering commitment has been to view diversity as more than just a metric — we see it as a profound driver of value. The glaring gender disparity within our industry spotlights the pivotal roles of our partners Sophia and Priscila. They exemplify the best of what our industry can achieve — a blend of professional excellence, insight and an innate ability to connect. By showcasing their expertise through women's mentorship programs, our video series and other avenues, we're not merely applauding their triumphs; we're establishing a benchmark, prompting the industry to acknowledge the undeniable value a diverse team, with skilled women at every level, brings to the table.DENIS SALVADOR MORANTE, FOUNDING PARTNER, OAKLINS FORTEZZA PARTNERS, BRAZIL
Can you tell us about your background?
SARA: I pursued a degree in Business Administration and was drawn to the financial sector during my college years. My initial taste of M&A was through an internship that introduced me to valuation, fueling my passion for corporate finance. Starting my journey at a renowned American investment bank, I worked on numerous capital market projects across varied sectors, primarily focusing on sell-side projects. My professional journey also led me to positions at a Brazilian bank and roles within the retail sector, where I was responsible for financial planning and oversight. Rejoining the M&A world with Oaklins Olimpia Partners, where I had the chance to reconnect with former colleagues, my diverse experiences have provided a rich, comprehensive perspective.
Over the past 15 years, we've prioritized diverse gender hiring, recognizing its role in fostering creativity and innovation in the dynamic financial world. However, achieving gender balance has been challenging. Instead of relying on lateral hires, we typically recruit and nurture interns within our culture. Sara stands out as an exception. She began her journey with our senior partners at a bulge bracket firm before venturing elsewhere. Rejoining us as a director, she's played a pivotal role in enhancing our female recruitment. Her career exemplifies how it is possible in our industry to balance a successful career and a flourishing personal life. Embracing diversity enriches our decision-making, reflects our varied clientele, and ensures our sustained success in a constantly shifting market.RICHARD RAINER, MANAGING PARTNER, OAKLINS OLIMPIA PARTNERS, BRAZIL
PRISCILA: I graduated with a double degree in Business Administration and Economics from Insper. Before joining Oaklins Fortezza Partners, I was a partner at the mergers and acquisitions boutique Brava Negócios from 2014 to 2018. I also worked in the investment banking division of Banco BR Partners from 2010 to 2013, and in the M&A advisory division of Pátria Investimentos from 2009 to 2010.
SOPHIA: I graduated in International Relations from Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo and furthered my studies in Economics at Fundação Getúlio Vargas. With a decade of experience in investment banking and private equity, I've held key positions at STS GAEA and Credit Suisse, contributing to various M&A and capital market transactions.
From your perspective, why is Oaklins' commitment to diversity pivotal in M&A processes? How does it amplify our strength in daily negotiations and client interactions?
PRISCILA: Diversity, in its broadest sense, fuels creativity and innovation. While some may assume corporate finance lacks creativity and imagination, the myriad challenges we confront demand inventive solutions. The diversity in our team — across gender and other dimensions—enhances our problem-solving capabilities. As we observe growing female interest in the financial sector, I firmly believe that amalgamating male and female perspectives enriches our company, fostering a harmonious synergy.
SOPHIA: Women bring unique nuances to our daily client interactions. Their presence, regardless of the client's gender, can create an empathetic bridge, fostering trust. A female touch can sometimes temper negotiations, ensuring discussions remain effective without unnecessary friction. At the core, it's not just about numbers; it's about human connections, emotions and stories, where a woman's sensitivity can be pivotal.
PRISCILA: We deal with people, and often in decisive moments of their lives. Sometimes they're selling a family-owned business, with significant emotional attachments. When navigating crucial moments like that, we often become confidants for our clients. Beyond the technicalities of negotiation, valuations, etc. we bring sensitivity to the personal aspects.
What skills do you need to succeed in corporate finance? And what different skills do women bring to the table?
SARA: Working in corporate finance is fascinating because it involves a diverse range of skills, from deep technical knowledge and analytical acumen to negotiation and interpersonal relationship skills. Diversity, including gender diversity, offers fresh viewpoints and insights that are positive for work environments and growing any business. To fully leverage this positive aspect, it is crucial for the workplace culture and environment to encourage active listening and the acknowledgment of women's contributions. In a constantly evolving business landscape, women's adaptability and soft skills are invaluable assets.
What are the misconceptions about a career in M&A for a woman?
SARA: One of the main misconceptions is that it's not possible to reconcile your personal life with a job that involves such intense pressure and sometimes excessive working hours. I believe that with good time management, setting priorities and objectives, and, most importantly, a support network, it is possible to manage and balance it. The connection between people, the stories behind each business, the diverse purposes, sectors and environments are the key aspects I love in M&A. When we do what we like, managing multiple tasks becomes easier and more satisfying.
How do you balance a demanding M&A career with motherhood's unique challenges?
PRISCILA: This question often pops up, especially during hiring processes. As a mother, I've found that my ability to multitask has only been heightened. Motherhood instills a sense of priority, honing one's focus on what truly matters. With a steadfast team at work and good support at home, striking a balance becomes less daunting. Our professional demands might be intense, but with commitment, clear boundaries and respect for personal timelines, women can thrive in both realms.
SOPHIA: Honestly, towards the end of my pregnancy, this question caused me a fair bit of anxiety. M&A professionals are resilient and demand a high level of dedication. Reconciling this with the demands of motherhood can be challenging but I believe in balance. Luckily, today, the professional landscape is more understanding and adaptable, a far cry from when I began my career. As Priscila said, women are inherently multitaskers. Motherhood often sharpens our efficiency as we juggle multiple roles, and with evolving societal expectations, women find ways to shine both at work and home.
I want to share my thoughts. We, as a company and as a society, need to help more. We can't put all the pressure on working moms. Family always comes first, especially when kids are young. A temporary absence should not incur the risk of career derailment. Employers should be addressing these issues – not least because the economy needs women to return to and stay in work. We shouldn't force women into an untenable choice between career and family. Passion for work shouldn't be stifled by personal responsibilities. So we offer as much support as we can, and we don't want anyone to feel like they're missing out. Understanding this and having more women in our team is very important to us. I believe this makes our team better and helps us do our job in the best possible way. We want more women to join our ranks.DENIS SALVADOR MORANTE, FOUNDING PARTNER, OAKLINS FORTEZZA PARTNERS, BRAZIL
How would you coach or advise junior female bankers?
SARA: Seek a workplace that values your perspective. Surround yourself with mentors and peers who uplift and inspire. Find those who believe in your potential. Recognize the importance of self-awareness and self-confidence. A robust support network, both personally and professionally, can be your cornerstone. Be a beacon for other women and actively champion diversity in your surroundings.