Variational quantum algorithms are the leading candidate for advantage on near-term quantum hardware. When training a parametrized quantum circuit in this setting to solve a specific problem, the choice of ansatz is one of the most important factors that determines the trainability and performance of the algorithm. In quantum machine learning (QML), however, the literature on ansatzes that are motivated by the training data structure is scarce. In this work, we introduce an ansatz for learning tasks on weighted graphs that respects an important graph symmetry, namely equivariance under node permutations. We evaluate the performance of this ansatz on a complex learning task, namely neural combinatorial optimization, where a machine learning model is used to learn a heuristic for a combinatorial optimization problem. We analytically and numerically study the performance of our model, and our results strengthen the notion that symmetry-preserving ansatzes are a key to success in QML.