While women may represent nearly half of all employees in the global financial services industry, almost 80% of those who do state that their gender makes success as a fund manager more difficult, according to Catalyst research.
What can be done about this? Quilter plc has a few ideas…
Encourage better decision-making with a gender balanced workforce
“The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, #BalanceforBetter, is a call-to-action that financial services would do well to take on-board. Because when it comes to gender balance the financial services sector is still looking like a seesaw, with a vastly unequal split between men and women, particularly in senior roles.
“Having a balanced workforce, particularly at the senior level, can mitigate groupthink thereby helping firms make better decisions by drawing in diverse perspectives. We are seeing a step-change in business with a clear realisation that companies that fail to fully benefit from the talents of both genders won’t flourish in the future.”
Jane Goodland, corporate affairs director
Flexible working and job share opportunities are key to enabling women
to progress to senior roles
“It’s hugely important that companies walk the talk on thinking innovatively to remove the barriers that prevent people – typically women – progressing to senior roles. Culture is central to this as it requires a degree of open-mindedness and for leadership to say it is ok. A boss will largely determine whether a job share will succeed or fail.
“More businesses are realising that offering flexible working, including job share, is a great way to attract and retain the best people.
“We have been in a job share since 2013 which we have taken through multiple career and organisation moves. In that time it’s really encouraging that the conversation has moved on from why people need to work flexibly to how businesses are going to make it work.”
Alix Ainsely and Charlotte Cherry, directors of talent and culture
Use female role models to give other women confidence
“Like many sectors, the investment industry does not have a great track record for promoting diversity, but that is changing. I think one of the big challenges for young women coming into the industry in the past was the lack of credible role models. Most of the big name fund managers that come to mind are men. But where female portfolio managers have come to the fore in senior roles over the past decade I think that has given other women the confidence to aspire to more themselves.
“Attitudes have also shifted over time. One of the first bits of advice I received from a colleague was to be careful that as a junior investment assistant I wasn’t dismissed as a secretary ‘because I was a woman’. That was valuable advice at the time because I think that danger of being overlooked was a reality, and my colleague was genuinely trying to ensure I didn’t get brushed aside. But when I look back it seems almost unbelievable that it needed saying at all. I think attitudes have transformed and that the onus is no longer on women to work harder to avoid being overlooked, but on companies and management to ensure that they foster an environment that evaluates everyone on merit.”
Helen Bradshaw, portfolio manager
Review recruitment processes and communication style to ensure you’re not deterring women
“The number of female financial advisers is woeful, with some putting estimates as low as 16%. In 2019 one would expect that as an industry we are much further along, however striking a balance of male and female advisers still seems a long way off. The Quilter Financial Adviser School is committed to bringing more women into the industry. While we’re proud that 31% of learners are female we still are trying to shift the dial so it’s equal.
“That gap in female financial advisers has a noticeable knock on impact to the perception of the industry as there are less women getting advice and some find financial services in general hostilely male. As an industry we’re not blind to the issue and several firms and companies have pegged their colours to the mast and said they will do more to address the gender gap in advisers and clients. However, pace does need to quicken. All advisers and firms need to be reviewing their processes and styles of communicating to ensure they aren’t inadvertently putting off half the population.”
Sarah Waring, client and proposition director
Develop investment opportunities that women are interested in
“The continuing programme of UN-led climate change discussions has focused attention on the need for the sustainable management of our planet’s natural resources. As work to meet these global objectives gains greater momentum, sustainable investment has also gained a greater profile among investors. This is particularly the case amongst socially conscious female investors.
“We are now seeing increasing numbers of women making investment choices that have a clear and measurable positive impact on society as well as generating profits. This increase in awareness is having a significant impact on other investors and the asset management industry, with greater products now out there for the socially conscious investor.”
Claudia Quiroz, lead investment manager for Quilter Cheviot’s Sustainable Investment Strategy