Leadership Lessons Learned from Space


Cady Coleman is a former astronaut, retired Air Force Colonel, and veteran of two Space Shuttle missions and a six-month expedition on the International Space Station (ISS). She joined the Women in Investment Management: Opening Doors conference in Montreal to share her story of being a woman astronaut negotiating NASA’s male culture.

Coleman’s parents modeled success. Her mother raised her to believe that she could become anything, and her father was an explorer who worked in an undersea lab program and lived in some dangerous places. After hearing Sally Ride speak at her college, Coleman set her sights on space.

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Experiencing Montréal


The 2019 Women in Investment Management conference will be held in Montréal, offering networking opportunities and skill-building workshops to address topics that include creating a path to the boardroom, developing an executive presence, and building a great financial services resume.

CFA Society Montréal will be hosting the event, and they have provided some recommendations for sights and activities that conference delegates can enjoy during their time in the city: Read More

Opening Doors to Your Future


Investment firms are accepting the premise that they need to change their cultures and increase diversity. But how can we open doors for women? At the CFA Institute Women in Investment Management: Opening Doors conference, held in Montreal on 18-19 September, sessions will consider how under-represented financial professionals can move ahead in their careers.

Women and people of diverse backgrounds are under-represented in finance – Morningstar began tracking women in the investment industry in 2015, when they found that only 2% of funds were managed exclusively by women. Around 19% of CFA Institute members are women today. And even when women are included in the industry, they do not rise to management levels at the same rate as men.

Many of the traits viewed as desirable for managing equities are considered “masculine.” Madeline Heilman, professor of psychology and director of graduate studies at New York University, has been studying the perceptions of men and women for more than thirty years, and she has found that they are not just different, they are oppositional. Women can be excluded from some roles — especially in professions such as law, finance, and medicine — because people assume that they lack the masculine, agentic traits considered essential for top performance.

We need to change cultural norms, working to challenge embedded views along with overt and unconscious biases. At the Women in Investment Management conference, Heilman will discuss findings from her research on gender bias in her session on the impact of gender bias in the workplace.

The event is an opportunity to learn more about the CFA Institute diversity and inclusion report, which is based on roundtable sessions with practitioners in global finance. It offers practical tips for firms working to create more diverse teams. Also at the conference:

  • Inspirational NASA astronaut Cady Coleman will discuss her experience working in the male-dominated culture of the International Space Station. She will explain how she overcame roadblocks and learned distinctive, mission-driven leadership lessons during her time in space.
  • Bonnie St. John is a Paralympic medalist, Rhodes scholar, and economist; she will recount how she worked to overcome discrimination on many levels. St. John managed not only to rise, but to thrive, and she will discuss diversity etiquette and the power of inclusive leadership.
  • Anu Aiyengar leads mergers and acquisitions for JP Morgan Chase in North America, where she mentors young women and leads the firm’s women’s initiative. She will talk about fierce feedback, sharing her story of being misjudged based on her personal background.
  • Heather Brilliant, CFA, the CEO of Diamond Hill Capital Management and outgoing chair of the CFA Institute board of governors, will explain what it means to be an investor in the Age of Engagement. Women and young investors are driving changes to the traditional investment model, redefining success in investing to include investing with impact.

The conference will also feature Margaret E. Franklin, CFA, president and CEO of CFA Institute and co-founder of its Women in Investment Management Initiative, along incoming chair of the CFA Institute Board of Governors, Diane C. Nordin, CFA.

Networking opportunities and skill-building workshops will address topics that include creating a path to the boardroom, developing your executive presence, and building a great financial services resume.

It’s not too late — join us in Montreal to be inspired and blaze your own path to success in finance. Learn from experts, network with women and peers from diverse backgrounds, and gain new insight into opening doors and moving ahead in your career.

All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.


Bridging the Divide: Thoughts on Diversity and Race


Michele Norris, award-winning journalist and former host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” describes her current project as “eavesdropping on America’s conversation about race.” Norris created The Race Card Project in 2010 to explore how Americans think about and navigate the often-difficult topic of race, and she shared her insights at the CFA Institute Diversity & Inclusion 2018: Strategies for Success Conference.

Eight years ago, when Norris was on a tour for her book, The Grace of Silence, she decided to bring postcards to book events and ask the audience to write just six words about race on the cards and mail them back to her. To her surprise, she received a 30% response rate — and her parents were postal workers, so her mother loved that she was supporting the U.S. Postal service.

Norris always hated the phrase “the race card,” or references to “playing the race card.” It seemed like a way of saying “please stop talking.” But she used the term for her project to turn the notion on its head.

The post cards turned into a website that allows people to submit six words on race electronically. She has now received more than 250,000 responses from people in all 50 states and 96 countries around the world. Norris says that the site invites people to share experiences, ideas, thoughts, or laments on race. She noted that some people visit the site just to “lurk” or observe, and that is o.k., too.

Although some call Norris an expert on matters of race and identity, she thinks of herself as someone who has listened more than others. She currently directs The Bridge program at The Aspen Institute, and its goal is to build sturdy cultural bridges, especially at this time when we really need them.

Norris encourages people to cross bridges and enter the world of others – to try to hear the views of others. She explained that going to other worlds and trying to understand other perspectives is key to building a better world for everyone. The goal, according to Norris, is not to create a place where everyone agrees with each other – that is asking too much.

However, bridges are supported by oppositional forces. The goal is to cross the bridge and come back. Instead of being a weakness, figuring out how to listen to each other across the divide can bring us to a moment of strength. Norris noted that there is great value in “staying at the table,” even when you disagree.

Norris said that she chose six words because it is a concept that people understand. And in making it short you get to a distillation, getting to the essence of something. Six words could be pithy and inviting, while a sentence could easily turn into a paragraph. Six words can be powerful.

Some responses were uncomfortable, and some shocked the audience. Things like “black babies cost less to adopt,” “I am white and pay the price,” and “Lady, I do not want your purse.” Others suggested a backstory that led Norris to prompt people with a follow up question: “Anything else?” People began to reveal their stories, and Norris learned why people chose their six words.

Norris has learned a great deal from the project and from the stories she receives. One surprise was that the majority of respondents were from Caucasian ancestry.

The nature of the responses can show where society stands on race and diversity. Norris has been hearing from white Americans who thank her for providing a place where people can tell their truth, and she has seen the site drive some positive changes.

Norris also noted that some white men feel uninvited. They fear saying the wrong thing, and they feel that their stories are discounted. We see this in our political climate, and it should not be ignored. Some responses have mirrored issues with sustained downward mobility for some white Americans, which is new. Norris explained that when race was discussed in the past, white Americans were seen as bystanders. She has since figured out that we must learn how to include all people in the conversation, and we cannot ignore anyone’s views.

The website will post things that are edgy to help understand the terrain at the moment. Norris noted that “just because they didn’t say it, doesn’t mean they didn’t bring it in the room with them.” Her goal is to create a circle of trust so that people can share their stories and build sturdy cultural bridges to strengthen communities and organizations. Ultimately, she wants to create a situation where we not only think about diversity, we act on diversity.

Norris says that she decided to hold up a window and a mirror. The window is for understanding the experiences of others, and the mirror is to understand and contextualize our own experiences.

Although the Race Card Project provides a framework for further discussion on diversity – How should we talk about race? What consideration should we give it in our work environments? – Norris does not like the term “diversity training.” She wondered whether this talk of “difference” could mean different experiences, to include conditions like poverty or a military background. Norris is concerned that organizations are only directing Team A to work with Team B, when we need to get curious about others and their experiences, which can be the building block for something bigger. We need to place value on listening and on diversity of thought.

This is a challenge in the financial world, financial management, and the spaces where financial professionals work, said Norris. if we are asked to picture a “genius,” or “financial titan,” we often have assumptions of how these people look. We need to change our perspective.

Right now, the investment industry has a diversity problem. But research has shown that diversity brings strength and greater profitability. Instead of seeing diversity improvements as something that we have to do, Norris wishes that we would change how we look at diversity. She noted that we could stop calling it “diversity” and start calling it “reality.” We get to learn more and make our organizations stronger. In finance, we should create an environment that reflects the clients that we serve.

Norris recommends that we “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” We may need to think about this just like we think about working out at the gym: no pain, no gain.

Finally, Norris stated that as a long-time journalist, she has been asking people to listen to her. With her time left on earth, she plans on working to create cultural bridges so that people can listen to each other.

When asked about her own six words on race, Norris said that they have changed over time. Currently, they are “More work left to be done,” which is a call to action that we should all heed.

All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Image credit: CFA Institute

Meeting the Challenges of Diversity and Inclusion


Most of us would say that we respect those who come from different backgrounds — but do we truly value difference? Research has shown that diverse work environments lead to better results, but it has also shown that the investment profession is far from employing a diverse workforce.

Fewer than 20% of the holders of the CFA® designation are women. And investment firms owned by women and minorities manage only 1.1% of the industry’s $71.4 trillion in assets, according to a May 2017 study commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Bella Research Group.

Additionally, minority-owned and women-owned (MWO) asset managers face institutional investor and investment adviser bias; in September 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that MWO firms regularly face unsubstantiated perceptions of weaker performance.

The main challenge lies not in diagnosing the diversity issue, but in addressing it.

This September, CFA Society San Francisco and the CFA Institute Women in Investment Management Initiative will convene Diversity and Inclusion 2018: Strategies for Success, an event designed to continue discussions around hiring and promoting employees based on skill and experience, as well as helping individuals move ahead in their careers and find ways to network with others. At the conference:

  • Michele Norris — former host of NPR’s All Things Considered and current director of Aspen Institute’s new program on race, identity, connectivity, and inclusion — will discuss “Bridging the Divide.”
  • Shazia Syed, CEO and chairperson of Unilever Pakistan, will talk about her experience as a woman leading a large corporation in the Middle East and overcoming obstacles to success.
  • Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, executive director at Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, will discuss barriers to inclusion and workplace culture issues.
  • A session will provide views from the C-Suite, as Jennifer Johnson, president and COO of Franklin Resources, Inc.; Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer of CalSTRS; and Lynn Blake, CFA, CIO of global equity solutions at State Street Global Advisors discuss their work cultivating diversity as a part of company culture.
  • Skill building workshops led by Fran Skinner, CFA, Jared Redick, and Patrice Merrin will look at achieving success by leveraging relationships, reverse-engineering long-term career goals, and the path to the C-suite and board room.

Additional sessions will discuss deepening connections with female clients and working with entrepreneurs as private wealth clients. Hear about these topics and more at Diversity and Inclusion 2018: Strategies for Success, taking place 20–21 September in San Francisco.

All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Image credit: Getty Images


The Gender Diversity Dividend


Investing through a “gender lens” is gaining in popularity, and large financial firms are stepping up to meet the demand.

Earlier this year, State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) became one of the latest firms to bet on gender diversity, when its new exchange-traded fund (ETF), the SPDR Gender Diversity Index, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange. Outfitted with an appropriate ticker symbol — SHE — the fund tracks an index of companies that have high proportions of women in senior leadership positions. Those companies that rank in the top 10% in each sector are included in the portfolio, with the proviso that each also have at least one woman on its board or as CEO.

The fund’s goal is to achieve market-rate returns by investing in US companies that recognize the value of gender diversity and do their part to ensure that women are well-represented on their boards of directors and in management. As of May, about 150 companies were included in the ETF, and returns have closely tracked the S&P 500 index.

The SHE ETF is hardly the first to embrace impact investing, but its growth has been phenomenal. Since launching in May, the fund has attracted $270 million in assets — more than any other ETF that debuted in 2016, according to Bloomberg. In a first for a State Street ETF, SHE also has a charitable component. The charitable fund, SHE Gives Back, donates money to organizations that counter sexism directed at girls in early childhood who want to become leaders.

Lynn Blake, CFA, EVP of SSGA and CIO of global equity beta solutions, oversees the fund’s management team. With close to 30 years of experience in equity index strategies and managing equity index portfolios, mostly at SSGA, she is a logical choice.

For Blake, there is no such thing as a typical work day, but that’s exactly why she loves her career. What she enjoys most, though, is working directly with clients and helping them to achieve their goals.

When not at work, she describes herself as “busy by choice.” She is the mother of two teenage daughters, and strives to be an active part of their lives. An avid hiker, gardener, and softball player, she also has completed both a marathon and a half-Ironman competition — 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run.

I spoke with Blake about the SHE ETF, diversity in investment management, and the wisdom and experience she has accrued both within the profession and without.

CFA Institute: Tell us about the SHE ETF. How did you become involved? How are companies selected and how would you describe the management process behind it?

Lynn Blake, CFA: The idea for SHE emerged from conversations with one of our clients about advancing gender diversity in the investment management industry, and more broadly about promoting women as leaders in corporate America. It was really this inspiration that drove our investment and product teams to launch the SHE ETF. At SSGA, we have deep expertise in indexing and a long heritage of research and development of proprietary indexing strategies. This ESG-themed index was a natural extension of our core capabilities. We wanted to create an index strategy with the dual goal to do “good” and do “well” — that is, to do “good” by identifying companies that had been able to attract and promote women to leadership positions, and also do “well” with the strong investment thesis that greater diversity leads to better decision making and better corporate performance.

In a Boston Globe article about the ETF, you said, “It’s generating a lot of interest because it addresses the important social issue of gender equity in corporate America.’’ In what way?

We know that women represent close to 50% of the labor force, but are underrepresented even at entry-level jobs. These numbers continue to shrink significantly as you go up the corporate hierarchy. Specifically, less than 20% of women fill leadership and board positions in corporate America with just 4% of women obtaining the CEO position in S&P 500 companies. The SHE ETF identifies the companies that have been able to achieve strong gender diversity at the board, CEO, and senior executive level, allowing investors to allocate capital directly to these companies that have gotten it right.

You entered the investment management industry at a time when there were very few women. What was it like then, and how is it different today? What drove your decision to enter such a male-dominated industry, or did you not see it that way?

Honestly, it never occurred to me to consider issues of gender inequality when I first joined the investment management industry. I joined the industry right out of university, and my perspective was that the business world was like the academic world — based on equality and merit. This perspective was reinforced by the fact that the team I was hired into had several female portfolio managers already, so I did not immediately feel that the industry was male-dominated. What I did quickly realize was that senior roles and leadership positions were almost entirely filled by men. Unfortunately, that has not changed as much as I would have hoped or expected after 25 years.

What are some of the advantages of having women in leadership roles, be it in the C-suite or on investment teams?

There has been study after study that supports the business case that gender diversity has positive financial outcomes. Research conducted by McKinsey, Catalyst, Cayman Institute, and Credit Suisse are a few examples. Two more recent studies worth highlighting were done by MSCI and the Peterson Institute. The MSCI paper, “Women on Boards: Global Trends in Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards,” concluded that strong female leadership did generate a higher return on equity, but also that these companies had less governance issues such as bribery, corruption, fraud, and shareholder battles. The research published in February 2016 by the Peterson Institute also supports the case of stronger corporate performance. This study was particularly interesting because it went beyond board and CEO-level diversity, and found that diversity among senior executives was more impactful than diversity solely at the board or CEO level.

So all this research corroborates what I see in my own work experience. When there is greater diversity, whether it is at the firm level, team level, or even just in a meeting, the dialogue and dynamic of that group is different — which leads to a very different organizational culture, and, I would argue, better discussion, more challenge, stronger innovation, and ultimately a better result.

And somewhat related, how do you find alpha, or what particular skills do you, as a woman, bring to portfolio management?

I have built my career in indexing and passive investing, and ultimately believe that markets are quite efficient. I believe that trading costs and fees erode long-term returns, making alpha very elusive for the average investor. However, I do believe that other factors beyond beta drive returns and those risk premias (like value, size, and quality) can be harvested efficiently through a smart beta strategy. Gender diversity can be one of those factors. I think my skill is to bring a pragmatic approach to investing and to help investors achieve their goals in an effective and efficient manner.

So how, then, do we encourage more women to join the industry? And retain them once they are there?

It starts with a focused effort to recruit women from business schools. [The average enrollment of women in full-time MBA programs at 36 business schools climbed from 32% to 36% between 2011 and 2015.] I think the investment management industry is a great career for women, but I worry that there are negative perceptions due to the global financial crisis, Occupy Wall Street, and a general distrust of banks and financial companies that deter women from entering the field.

The lack of role models is also an issue, as all you see are a lot of white men. Younger women want to be in an industry with peers, so women need to be more visible and sell what the benefits of the field are to people of both genders and all colors.

I also think there is a view that work/life balance and being a working mother are difficult for a successful career in asset management. Millennials expect to develop both a career and a life, so we need to dispel both misconceptions. We need to make it an appealing and balanced way to make a living.

We also need to do a better job when recruiting. We must ensure that all job descriptions are inclusive and gender-neutral, insist on a balanced slate of candidates in the interviewing process, and train managers against unconscious biases that can creep into the hiring process. In order to retain women in the industry, careers must continually be developed through training, new opportunities and roles, and stretch assignments — in an environment where promotions and compensation are clearly based on performance and merit. I believe it is also critical that a company offers flex time, remote access, and easy in/out transitions related to maternity leave. I know I would not have stayed in my job at SSGA had I not been given the flexibility I needed when my children were little.

What are some of the biggest obstacles to the process?

I think the biggest obstacle is a lack of commitment from the top. Leaders need to walk the walk and talk the talk, and truly lead by example through their internal and external communications, executive-level diversity, succession planning, and sponsorship activities. If diversity is a strategic goal for a company, it needs to be just as important as one of their financial goals, such as those measured through EPS growth, net new revenue, margin expansion, and fund performance, to name a few.

There is more pressure now from both women and men, kind of a grassroots effort, for gender diversity. The biggest positive change I have seen is more acceptance with the younger generation of men.

What advice would you give someone considering finance as a profession?

There are so many great career tracks in the investment management industry beyond a portfolio manager or an analyst, so keep an open mind to all the possibilities. The industry can be perceived as very narrow, but there are many aspects to it that can leverage one’s skills, and it is wide open for all kinds of skills.

Based on my own experience and career, finding the right firm or business is more important than finding that perfect position when first starting out. Find a company that is the right “fit” in terms of culture, vision, values, the management team, fellow colleagues, and the overall vibe of the company — one that you are excited to work for. Once you find the right company “fit,” then seek out an area you are passionate about and proud of, where you can build a long-term career. Establish your skills and reputation, then you can pivot across the company to find that best position.

At the Diversity & Inclusion 2018: Strategies for Success conference on 20–21 September in San Francisco, Lynn Blake, CFA, will be participating in a panel discussion on the importance of diverse perspectives at the executive level.

All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Billions of Reasons to Be Yourself


Showtime’s Billions is one of the best shows on television.

It blends excellent storytelling, great acting and writing, and a keen sense for its focal point, Axe Capital, a Connecticut hedge fund.

We don’t often see fund management on the small screen. But Billions has also brought something else unusual: Asia Kate Dillon’s portrayal of Taylor Mason.

Both the character and the person who plays them is non-binary, meaning they don’t identify as either male or female. What’s striking about this is not just the boundary-busting they’ve done, but also the speed with which their colleagues accept their identity, pronouns, and personhood. When Taylor comes out to their boss, the reaction is “You know, the difference in you is actually your advantage.”

So where is the real-life Taylor? I’d wager the answer is simple: hiding in plain sight.

There is tremendous pressure to keep what makes us different a secret in the workplace. NYU School of Law and Deloitte surveyed 3,129 professionals and found that 61% take action to cover up at least one element of their personality, whether that means straightening their hair to de-emphasize race, avoiding discussions about motherhood to appear more committed at work, or refraining from bringing a same-sex partner to a work function.

The authors also found:

“45 percent of straight White men — who have not been the focus of most inclusion efforts — reported covering. This finding seems particularly promising, given that a model of inclusion should, almost by definition, be one in which all individuals can see themselves.”

It’ll take more than saying it to make it so, but it’s a start. Why does that problem seem so hard, though? Being effective takes empathy no matter who you work with. But too often human beings are met with raised eyebrows instead of open arms when they find the courage to stop covering.

That’s too bad, and not just for the people left to go it alone. Monocultural firms can only scale so far. And when co-workers see a colleague separate from their employer because of a characteristic, the best-case scenario is that they just feel a little uneasy as a result. The worst is that such action allows bias to calcify into blindness or even bigotry.

When I came out to my colleagues as a transgender woman in October of last year, one of the things I said was, “If you can respect me as a human, seeing me as a woman is a matter of time.”

That time has come quickly, and my boldest hope is that it will come for you if you’d like it to. I know what it’s like to feel my dignity is contingent on keeping my immutable characteristics secret. It hurt the whole time I was trying, and I’ve never been gladder to give something up.

Everyone ought to be so lucky no matter what they don’t feel able to say. But how to help them out? For a start, here are five great links about diversity and inclusion in investment management:

On 20–21 September, CFA Institute will host Diversity & Inclusion 2018: Strategies for Success in San Francisco, the latest in its series of Women in Investment Management events. This event will feature provocative presentations and interactive discussions designed to better position and shape investment firms for the future and help everyone in the industry move ahead in their careers.

All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Registration Open: Diversity and Inclusion 2018 Conference


Registration is now open for the CFA Institute conference Diversity & Inclusion 2018: Strategies for Success, which will take place in San Francisco, California, on 20–21 September 2018. The event offers a range of practical strategies to enhance investment careers for individuals and improve decision making at investment firms.

The conference is part of the CFA Institute Women in Investment Management Initiative, an ongoing effort to build the business case for diversity in the investment profession. The initiative, which seeks to increase the number of women who join the financial profession, to retain women in the profession and influence culture from within, and to create demand for diversity as an industry imperative, is supported by a Women in Investment Management Network discussion group on LinkedIn and by networking events organized by CFA Institute and its member societies.

Diversity and Inclusion 2018 will build on the success of the first three Women in Investment Management events and advance the conversation with a range of practical strategies to enhance investment careers for individuals and improve decision making at investment firms.

Register now, and join us in San Francisco.

All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Getting Diversity to Work


Wouldn’t it be great if our workplaces resembled the world around us?

After all, women represent 51% of the world’s population. But do you see a 50/50 split in your organization? How about at the executive level? And what about the board?

If you work in investment management, take a look around — not at the middle ranks of the organization, but at the senior level. I don’t need to tell you that there’s a gender gap. How broad is the disparity?

Oliver Wyman’s recent report on women in financial services found that only 15 percent of portfolio managers globally were women as of December 2015. (At CFA Institute, just 18% of our members globally are women.)

The good news is that many companies are trying to do something to improve diversity within their organizations. The growing interest in this topic is reflected in numerous articles, white papers, and academic research projects.

In fact, the cover of the July–August 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review featured a multi-colored parrot perched above a single word in all-caps: DIVERSITY. Two of the issue’s spotlight features paid attention to the ways that companies can put diversity to work by accessing a broader talent pool.

HBR DiversityIn “Why Diversity Programs Fail — And What Works Better,” academics Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev write that “it shouldn’t be surprising that most diversity programs aren’t increasing diversity.” The problem is that “to reduce bias and increase diversity, organizations are relying on the same programs they’ve been using since the 1960s. Some of these efforts make matter worse, not better.”

Why is this the case? “Most diversity programs focus on controlling managers’ behavior, and as studies show, that approach tends to activate bias rather than squash it. People rebel against rules that threaten their autonomy.”

What can be done about it? “Instead of trying to police mangers’ decisions, the most effective programs engage people in working for diversity, increase their contact with women and minorities, and tap into their desire to look good to others.”

Dobbin and Kalev analyzed data from 829 midsize and large US firms to try to answer the key question in all of this: Which diversity efforts actually succeed?

Two efforts stood out: Mentoring and college recruitment targeting women. In the former, the authors note that “mentoring has an especially positive impact. Managers who sponsor women and minorities come to believe, through their increased contact, that their protégées deserve the training and opportunities they have received.” As for the latter, “college recruitment targeting women turns recruiting managers into diversity champions.”

In the same issue, Harvard Business Review interviewed Iris Bohnet, a professor and author at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and author of What Works: Gender Equality by Design. Bohnet offered insights into ways that companies can structure their hiring practices to overcome hidden bias.

“Start by accepting that our minds are stubborn beasts,” says Bohnet. “It’s very hard to eliminate our biases, but we can design organizations to make it easier for our biased minds to get things right.” She tells the story of how orchestras started using blind auditions in the 1970s; the result was that the number of women in orchestras went from fewer than 10% to around 40% today.

“You can’t easily put job candidates behind a curtain, but you can do a version of that with software,” Bohnet says in her interview. There are tools “that allow employers to blind themselves to applicants’ demographic characteristics. The software allows hiring managers to strip age, gender, educational and socioeconomic background, and other information out of résumés so they can focus on talent only.”

Bohnet also recommends that companies scrutinize job ads for language that unconsciously discourages specific genders from applying. “A school interested in attracting the best teachers, for instance, should avoid characterizing the ideal candidate as ‘nurturing’ or ‘supportive’ in the ad copy, because research shows that can discourage men from applying. Likewise, a firm that wants to attract men and women equally should avoid describing the preferred candidate as ‘competitive’ or ‘assertive,’ as research finds that those characterizations can discourage female applicants.” Making conscious choices to use neutral recruitment language can mean attracting candidates from the broadest pool of applicants.

You can learn more about the effectiveness of gender-diverse teams and the ways that they can positively impact investment outcomes by reviewing some of the articles and research highlighted on this website.

On 14–15 September in Boston, CFA Institute and the Boston Security Analysts Society, Inc., will host Alpha and Gender Diversity: The Competitive Edge, a conference organized as part of the Women in Investment Management Initiative to advance the business case for diversity in the investment profession.

Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Rawpixel


The “Diversity Multiplier:” Why We Need More Women in Investment Management


The asset management industry in the US boasts several high-profile women leaders — Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of JPMorgan Asset Management comes to mind. So does Marie Chandoha, president and CEO of Charles Schwab Investment Management, and Kristi Mitchem, president, chief executive officer, and head of Wells Fargo Asset Management.

But as Oliver Wyman’s recent report, “Women in Financial Services,” points out, despite having some women in top positions, “asset management does no better than the rest of the financial services industry when it comes to female representation at the top. And portfolio management, the so-called ‘engine room’ of the asset management industry, does even worse.”

Just 15% of portfolio managers globally were women as of December 2015, compared with 18% on asset management executive committees, according to the report. (Incidentally, Asia has by far the highest representation of women in portfolio management, at 32%.)

While this may not be news to you, the vexing question remains: Why is this still such an intractable issue, especially at a time when there is increasing awareness of the benefits of diversity in the workplace and a seemingly endless stream of articles and research papers on the topic?

One reason that can be scratched off the list right away is that men simply make better portfolio managers.

“[It’s] not because women are worse at portfolio management than men,” the authors say. In fact, “studies show all possible results in terms of portfolio performance, with neither women nor men being systematically better. So the available evidence provides no justification for the low representation of women in portfolio management.”

The sad reality is that we are all losing out because of it.

The report notes there is evidence that women investors are stronger advocates for gender diversity in their portfolio companies. “More women in portfolio management could mean more women in leadership positions across the economy — a diversity multiplier effect.”

So what is deterring women from working in portfolio management? How can the barriers be removed?

The authors say that based on interviews, research, and an online survey, they see three reasons why there are so few women in the “engine room” of asset management:

  • Culture and Image. Most of the interviewees identified the culture and image of asset management as a problem for attracting and retaining female staff. The stark reality: “The industry’s image is largely unattractive to women.”
  • Graduate recruitment. While retaining women is a problem, the bigger problem is attracting them in the first place. “The image of asset management firms may deter qualified women from applying, as may a lack of knowledge about the industry among graduates who have no specific reason to be interested in the topic,” according to the report.
  • (Perceived) barriers to flexible working. The interviewees in the study had differing views on flexible working options. But what seems clear, however, is that “the increasing use of technology in money management is likely to challenge traditional approaches to money management.” The report notes that many leaders within the asset management industry want to see more women working as portfolio managers and are taking steps to effect change.

The report recommends taking some steps that echo some the work we are doing at CFA Institute through our Women in Investment Management initiative and that you can implement at your firm.

For example, here’s something simple you can do today: Help spread the word that the profession is friendly to women and encourage women to pursue an education and career in investment management. If you are a CFA charterholder, talk about the CFA charter as a global passport for career success. Share research, business cases, and stories of how women are making a difference. (You can find more ideas for how to make a difference here.)

The report concludes with a powerful call to action:

“Portfolio management is not what comes to mind when most people think of financial services: less high-profile and glamorous than investment banking, and less familiar to consumers than retail banking and insurance. Portfolio management may not have been a priority among campaigners for greater gender diversity in financial services. But given the influence of portfolio managers in the wider economy through share ownership, and the potential for a diversity multiplier effect, it should be.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the latest research and best practices for improving diversity at investment firms, as well as participating in networking and hands-on workshops to take your firm to the next level, join us in Boston on 14–15 September 2016 for the Alpha and Gender Diversity: The Competitive Edge conference.

Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

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