Attendees at a launch event for Club 1973 in London, Oct. 5 2017. Attendees at a launch event for Club 1973 in London, Oct. 5 2017.
Courtesy of Reed Smith

The men are all waiting on the women in the photos from an October event at Burberry’s prestigious New Bond Street venue arranged by Laura Brunnen, a corporate partner in Reed Smith’s London office.

Those gender roles are not happenstance.

Laura Brunnen Laura Brunnen

Brunnen, who has over 15 years’ M&A experience in private equity and cross-border transactions, invited only women when she planned the event to launch a new social networking group aimed at the private equity industry.

“It’s not that the men are horrible to us,” Brunnen said. “There are just things that another woman would understand and a man wouldn’t.”

For starters, they might not entirely understand, as other women do, what it is like to be part of a minority among the industry leadership.

A report issued this month by Prequin, which tracks the financial services industry, shows that the proportion of senior roles in private equity held by women has dropped to 9 percent from closer to 12 percent in 2016.

The inaugural event for Brunnen’s new U.K. organization, Club 1973, named for the year in which women first gained access to the London Stock Exchange trading floor, drew 100 women, many of them principals from private equity houses, Brunnen said.

With the club, Brunnen hopes to encourage more women to enter the industry.

“It is essentially a social network for women who work in PE. We are not trying to do anything clever. We are trying to provide a relaxed forum,” Brunnen said.

In her decade and a half working in the field, she has worked on deals when women were driving the transaction only three times, she said.

She wants that to change, even if this time around the law firm invitees were all from Reed Smith.

Will she open the next event in November to private equity lawyers at other firms?

“I don’t know,” Brunnen said, adding that she won’t entirely control the guest list.