Up-and-Coming Women in PE to Know: Sarah Whitney

May 30, 2024

The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview, email [email protected].

Sarah Whitney

Sarah Whitney is a senior associate with Align Capital Partners (ACP). Sarah joined the Dallas office of ACP in 2023. She evaluates and executes new investments and supports portfolio company initiatives. Prior to joining ACP, Sarah spent two years as an associate at Cortec Group, a middle-market PE firm based in New York City that focuses on specialty consumer, distribution, healthcare and specialty services and products businesses. Prior to Cortec Group, she worked at Harris Williams as a healthcare investment banking analyst. Sarah has a B.A. in mathematics from Vanderbilt University.

Q: What was your path to PE, and what attracted you and concerned you about this career?

Sarah Whitney: While I took the “traditional” path to PE, it was not an industry on my radar for some time. Growing up, I was surrounded primarily by doctors in a medical family. However, my grandmother worked at an executive level in brokerage firms for 40 years and inspired me to consider the broader finance industry.

Since I was unsure what career paths might look like beyond the medical field, I started attending information sessions on campus early on in college to explore industries including consulting and banking. After my initial research, I determined that investment banking would be the best career launching point and allow me optionality as I figured out what I wanted to be when I “grew up.”

When I reflected on what I enjoyed the most about investment banking, it was working closely with management teams and learning about the operations of businesses. These key focus areas led me to pursue a career in PE, first in New York and then in my hometown of Dallas.

What concerned me the most about a career in PE and finance broadly was what my role would look like as a female and how that may potentially differ from my male counterparts. While I had seen many women in my life successfully navigate this journey in their own careers in different ways, at many PE firms this path was not yet charted.

Q: What was something that surprised you about the transition from banking to PE?

SW: I was surprised by the importance of fit and alignment with a firm’s strategy, culture, ethos and philosophy. I have been very fortunate to work at companies that place a great emphasis on these attributes, which is imperative given the number of individuals working at these firms.

Another aspect of the transition that struck me when I was being recruited from investment banking was the limited number of women in investment roles within PE. At the time, I had multiple women investment banking colleagues, and previously, in my bulge bracket investment banking internships, I came from an intern class with many under-represented individuals. The idea of being a firm’s first woman investment professional is daunting and intimidating, but it’s also an exhilarating challenge to create your own version of a woman in PE.

In my career, I have had the opportunity to work with and see women in many levels of PE, finance and broader industries. They have served and will continue to serve as an inspiration, sounding board, support system and more as I navigate my journey as a woman in PE.

Q: What is your favorite part of your current role?

SW: My favorite part of my role is working directly with management teams and learning about diverse business models. At ACP, we invest across four primary sectors, but within each segment there are hundreds of niche business models and parts of the economy that are often new to me.

I believe the type of lower-middle-market businesses that ACP partners with are a vital part of the U.S. economy. It’s incredibly rewarding to support these companies’ growth and partner with management teams to positively impact thousands of families directly.

Q: What is a goal that you have set for yourself this year?

SW: My word of the year is “mentorship.” Within my firm, we have a formal mentorship program to help employees develop the skills and acumen for growth in their careers at ACP. Within my broader network, I am focusing more on mentorship and connecting with other women in PE.

There are so many great organizations that exist and are being created to help women in PE, and finance more broadly, connect, share ideas and support one another. It can be difficult in your day-to-day job to take a step back and actively work on mentorship, but that is the challenge I have set for myself.

To contact Sarah Whitney, email [email protected].