I often mention here that I used to be an investment manager. The asset management industry heavily relies on key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success. Performance is everything, and numerous studies show that mixed-gender teams perform best of all. This is a well-paying profession, open to anyone with the right education. So, one would expect an equal ratio of men and women, right?
Today is international women's day and this blog, folks, is a rant.
Let's go back to 2005. I was invited to a conference for asset managers in the UK.
I came down from London with a lady friend from Russell Investments. The conference was held in the heart of Hampshire (not far from Jane Austen's House), in a country hotel. In the evening all the attendees were invited to a banquet in a grand hall, filled with round tables, each seating ten. I reached my allotted spot, but my friend was nowhere near me. I wondered why they didn't sit us together.
Looking around, I understood immediately. Spending the day with my female friend I hadn't noticed that the overall ratio of men to women was more than ten to one. The organizers didn't want tables with just men, but there were so few of us that they ‘peppered’ us around. Every table had just one woman in it, some had none.
That was 18 years ago. One would expect progress, right?
According to a recent study, although as many women as men join the industry, they are not promoted to managerial positions. Only 12% of mutual funds have at least one woman on their management team.
Why is that?
First and foremost, the people deciding on the promotions are men, and 70% of men will promote a man rather than a woman. And get that, if you have only one woman on a selection panel, it doesn't do the job. It reduces the chances of another woman being hired. You need more than one.
Another reason: this industry is all about swagger. You radiate confidence, and you’re awarded. Studies show that women are more likely to be interrupted and talked over when pitching ideas and strategies. Women are not accorded the same authority as men. Studies have also shown that when a woman and a man speak for the same amount of time, the woman is perceived to have spoken 30% more.
Damned if you’re too quiet, damned if you talk.
What can be done, you may ask.
Within the asset management industry, it is mainly about wanting to have gender parity. To work actively to have women in your team. To Judge according to competence, not confidence, because women don't promote themselves as well as men.
For me, it is talking about it and writing about it in my books. Raising the issue, and not just during women's international day.
Thank you for sticking this long!