Women in Leadership a Big Focus for New Senior Living Company Doyenne

For Manisha Bathija and Kristen Ahrens, the launch of Doyenne is personal.

Last month, the senior living veterans announced their new company, Doyenne Healthcare Capital, had inked a JV with Rockwood Capital to invest up to $100 million in equity to senior living communities across the U.S.

The company’s initial strategy will be to search for value-add opportunities across the private-pay senior living spectrum, from active adult to memory care. Growing first in larger cities is an initial focus.


Though they are just getting started, both leaders see a long runway for growth ahead.

“I do think we’re going to see a ton of opportunities,” Bathija told Senior Housing News. “I think there’s a lot on the sidelines at the moment that I believe will start coming out later in the year.”

But while growing a thriving senior housing business is their primary goal, they aim to do it “the right way.” For the duo, that means being responsible investors. It also means advancing women and people from other underrepresented groups into leadership roles wherever possible.


“We’re women- and minority-owned,” Bathija told Senior Housing News. “That’s a really important part of our mission.”

That mission extends to the company’s name. Doyenne is a word that means a woman who is a strong leader with a lot of experience — and that is what both co-founders bring to the company.

Bathija was formerly a senior investment officer with Ventas (NYSE: VTR) and with Bank of America Merrill Lynch; while Ahrens worked as a principal at Capital Seniors Housing, a private equity firm focusing on senior housing communities.

Over the years, they have come to know how “male-dominated” the industry can be, especially in corporate leadership. At the same time, women are overly represented in operational roles, especially in communities.

While that ratio has improved somewhat in more recent years, with women at the helm of several prominent senior living organizations; Ahrens believes there’s much more work left to be done and more help left to give.

“We’re both passionate about bringing women into this side of the sector, growing, mentoring and bettering those women,” Ahrens said. “Pulling them up through the industry and through their careers — that is something that Manisha I really didn’t benefit from as much.”

Ahrens added that the company will be focused on “relating to people, versus relating to financials.”

Both leaders are keenly aware of the challenges ahead in labor, and that the baby boomers are bringing with them a wild card in the form of new preferences and desires. They are also taking a big focus on ESG, and look to own buildings that are environmentally efficient.

And both are focused on joining up with operators that share their vision of the future. Along the way, they expect they will have to get creative with financial structures that incentivize operators to move in alignment with ownership.

“It’s a conversation between us and the operators — how do we do this so that we can generate the returns that we want for our capital partner and for their investors?” Bathija said. “It could be a variety of different structures: It could be a JV or incentive management fees. There are a variety of other ways, as well.”

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