It’s no secret that having diverse teams can support better performance outcomes and although much progress has been made in recent years, gender-based barriers still persist.

According to a recent McKinsey report, while 23 percent of all investing roles are held by women at PE firms globally, by the managing director level, only 12 percent are women. It’s imperative to have targeted policies and programs in place – both formal and grassroots – that help foster a community of support and mentorship. These initiatives can help develop and retain the female talent pipeline and upskill the next generation of leaders.

At OMERS, the commitment to diversity starts right from the top, but it doesn’t stop there. There are several programs across OMERS, designed to promote inclusion and diversity, create forums for discussion, and give people from all backgrounds access to tools and resources to help them grow professionally, including the newly established Women’s Peer Nexus @ OMERS group.

Women’s Peer Nexus @ OMERS was co-founded by Jennifer Zhou, Associate Director, OMERS Private Equity and Christie Chen, Director, Investment, Oxford Properties, who both envisioned an environment where women could come together to share experiences and build connections that transcend asset class boundaries. The goal of this grassroots initiative was to create an intentional space for participants to collaborate on day-to-day workstreams, share professional goals and ambitions, and become a support network for each other over time as they grow in their careers at OMERS.

The kickoff event held in July 2023 was attended by all New York based female OMERS and Oxford employees. In late October, the group established a formal, inter-group mentorship program, which helped further strengthen connections across the local office.

As Women’s Peer Nexus @ OMERS takes its next steps, the group will look to grow its geographic footprint, including plans for offshoot initiatives in Toronto and London, and launch a series of relevant workshops geared towards the next generation of rising female leaders at OMERS.

2023 proved there was interest across the board in establishing deeper connections in the workplace. By creating this community, the Women’s Peer Nexus @ OMERS is an example of how a simple idea can be the catalyst to change – enabling women to share experiences, exchange ideas, and build lasting relationships.