NAA Voices by Gerson R. Guzman, Ceiba Capital Partners


NAA Voices
Gerson R. Guzman, Ceiba Capital Partners

Building a Better Future for Our Daughters and Preparing Them for It

Justin T. Crane, Cyle A Williams, and Gerson R. Guzman from Ceiba Capital Partners with their daughters. (Photo courtesy of Gerson R. Guzman).

In our letter to NAA members last year celebrating Women’s History Month, Solange F. Brooks and I noted that our organization is committed to making the issue of female advancement, not just a topic for 30 days out of the year, but rather a year-round focus. This is not just altruistic on my part - it is rather self-serving. See at our firm, Ceiba Capital Partners, we are all the proud fathers of young girls, and we want to help build a better world for our daughters and prepare them to achieve their full potential.

In the last two years, one of these girls arrived into the world in the midst of a global pandemic and the other two had to contend with how that same pandemic rewrote the societal playbook. All are now growing up in a world of increased economic and geopolitical uncertainty. Many of the demographic and economic trends we discuss regularly as we underwrite to new investments represent tectonic shifts that will impact not only the world they are growing up in but the one they will enter as young professionals. These include the impact of technological innovation, demographic trends, workforce automation, business process outsourcing, and artificial intelligence, among others.

In many ways, we are no different from our own fathers - worried about securing the future of our children, but we also recognize they will face a more uncertain social, political, and economic environment. As parents, we hope to provide them with the education and economic opportunities to thrive in this constantly changing world.

However, as modern finance professionals, we are particularly situated to know the challenges they will encounter. From our own experience, we know that women disproportionately carry the dual burden of holding down jobs and being the primary caregivers at home. At the same time, women make less than men, a fact that sadly has not changed since we were young boys. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, full-time, year-round working women earned 82% of what their male counterparts earned. Men are generally employed in jobs with higher median wages and even at the top, gender disparities exist. According to a 2019 report by the McKinsey Global Institute, 5% of women in mature economies work in the highest-paying legislator, senior official, and manager occupations versus 8% of men.

We see this imbalance day by day in our own industry as alternative asset managers. A 2018 study by McKinsey and Lean In found that 1 in 5 professional women is frequently the only woman in the room. Most of us in the industry don’t need a survey to tell us how true that is. We can simply look around the room in mandate pitches, investment committee meetings, and industry conferences. The lack of women in leadership roles or simply not being in the room has cascading effects. Female entrepreneurs face daunting challenges to get their ideas off the ground and scale their businesses. In the same year as the McKinsey study above, less than 10% of decision-makers at venture capital firms were women and 74% of U.S. venture capital firms had ZERO female investors. That translates into a funding gap. In 2018, all-male founding teams received 85% percent of total venture capital investment in the United States, gender-diverse teams received 13%, and all-women teams received a paltry 2% percent.[1]

So that is the current state of affairs in which our daughters are growing up. My daughter will turn 18 in 2031 and the workplace will be different in many ways. I hope that as a society we will have made great strides in addressing the challenges and gaps noted, but I am not foolish enough to think we will have achieved parity or equity on all of these issues. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, by 2030 workers are likely to spend more time using social and emotional, higher cognitive, and technical skills, and less time on physical and manual, and basic cognitive skills. As such, it is up to us as professionals and fathers to take a leadership role in addressing these issues and preparing our own daughters for their future.

For the former, at our own firms, we need to have policies and procedures to deliberately hire, retain, and promote women into leadership roles. Let’s evaluate what barriers exist within our own firms and portfolio companies that are impediments to greater equity. In a world where we all constantly hear you can’t find and keep good people; this is a business imperative for success. After all, women represent close to half of the total labor force in the United States at 47%. I’m hopeful that the rise of more flexible and hybrid models of work will empower women to find the balance they often seek in their professional careers and personal aspirations. Additionally, involve yourself in organizations like the New America Alliance that have made it their mission to provide access to women and elevate them into leadership roles within their industry.

As to the latter, it happens in ways big and small. I encourage my daughter to embrace technology. For those of us who saw our kids seamlessly transition to remote learning and give us a few tips on how to use Zoom, we know they are now digital natives. To me, it is not about screen time, but about teaching her some of the skills she will need to thrive in a future that will be driven by using more technical, social, and emotional skills. Whether it is learning about coding or exposing her to STEM programs, I hope she gains a level of comfort with the tools and technology that will drive tomorrow’s world.

When she asks, I let my daughter listen in on my calls and take notes. She’s picked up a few things. When I launched Ceiba, she made notebooks for me to prioritize those areas she thought I should focus on, including Investor Relations, Portfolio Management, and Employee Management – that last one came with lots of hearts and smiley faces drawn on it. She even read the investment memorandum on my latest deal. Talk about realizing you need to spend more time on a deal when your daughter asks you about product attributes you cannot answer! She’s taken an interest, but my real hope is that she builds the confidence to pursue any endeavor she sets her sights on. More importantly, that she is in the room when the decisions are made about which program to advance or which projects or companies to fund.

[1] Kate Clark - https://techcrunch.com/2018/11/04/female-founders-have-brought-in-just-2-2-of-us-vc-this-year-yes-again/

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