21
Mar

Women in Investment

 

There has never been a better time for women to consider making a move into investing, but why does the investment management industry remain such a male-dominated profession, and what is being done to bring about change?

It is encouraging to see that most of the firms I work with are actively addressing the gender imbalance, and often the issue is that these firms want to hire more women but can’t attract the same level of female interest. As a recruiter, this is a challenge I am currently facing, particularly at the more junior level.

Historically, investment banking has very much been seen as a ‘boys club’. One of the first women to create a name for herself in the industry was Geraldine Weiss, but her route into the profession wasn’t an easy one. Despite her academic background and desire to become an investor, she struggled to find an investment firm that showed any interest in hiring her as more than a secretary, and in reference to the profession said “It was a man’s world, and women need not apply.” In 1996, she decided to create her own investment newsletter, Investment Quality Trends, but to avoid further gender discrimination and to attract a larger pool of readers would sign off as “G. Weiss”. It wasn’t until years after receiving consistent praise for her work that she felt she was able to release her full name, and is now referred to as the Grande Dame of Dividends.

The industry has come a long way since then, but this perception coupled with the reputation of often having to work long and unsociable hours in a competitive industry can be off putting to a candidate.

Last year, the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute (CFA) launched Women in Investment Management, an initiative which aims to increase diversity in the profession, and help diagnose the underlying causes of the gender disparity which still exist. Through a series of industry workshops, firms can openly discuss what they are doing, what’s been working, and what comes next. Key issues discussed include:

  • What is and isn’t working when it comes to recruiting, promoting, and retaining top talent?
  • How do firms attract a diverse candidate pool and successfully recruit diverse candidates?
  • What does an “inclusive” work culture look like? Have we moved beyond Diversity & Inclusion as a “check the box” initiative?

 

Today there are more opportunities in finance for women than ever before. This is largely due to the positive mentorship programmes and initiatives in place by the larger investment firms to attract and retain top female talent. Global initiatives such as 100 Women in Finance, Womenomics (a Japanese Government initiative that aims to drive economic growth through increasing gender equality) and Gender Lens Investing have all helped to promote the industry as an attractive profession for women. The theory behind Gender Lens Investing suggests that companies which don’t discriminate against women in the hiring process are ultimately able to hire the best available talent, and is supported by Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs amongst many others.

This year I was delighted to set up ‘Women Who Invest’ as part of Mason Alexander’s ‘Women Who Mean Business’ networking series. The aim of the group is to provide a platform for women who currently work in the profession to meet, share experiences and in time encourage more women to pursue careers in the industry. It is important for women to support women and to have mentors, and it is hoped that this group will help foster these relationships as it is open to women at all levels. The first event was held in February and was a great success. A key takeaway from the evening was the importance of resilience, but also that the investment profession is one where a woman can carve a very successful and enjoyable career path, whether it be in venture capital, private equity, credit, investment banking or advisory and the places the job can take you.

If you are considering your options or would like to attend the next event in May please do get in touch:
Lucy Fitzgerald
l.fitzgerald@masonalexander.ie