Alpha and Gender Diversity 2017: Registration Open

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Registration is open for the CFA Institute Alpha and Gender Diversity 2017 conference, which will take place in Toronto. The conference, held on 18–19 September, connects participants with actions and strategies to enhance investment decision making at firms, improve investor outcomes, and close the gender gap in the investment industry.

Speakers at the conference include:

  • Suni P. Harford, managing director and regional head of markets for North America at Citigroup Inc.
  • Andrea Turner Moffitt, cofounder of Plum Alley Investments and author of the book Harness the Power of the Purse: Winning Women Investors.

Last year’s Alpha and Gender Diversity conference included sessions on developing an executive presence, successful strategies for conducting career negotiations, and academic research on building smarter teams that harness the power of cognitive diversity.

Reserve your place at the conference today, and start shaping a stronger future for the investment profession.


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

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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

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

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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.

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/runeer

Registration Open: Alpha and Gender Diversity Conference

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Registration is now open for the CFA Institute conference Alpha and Gender Diversity: The Competitive Edge, which will take place in Boston, Massachusetts, on 14–15 September 2016. The conference addresses how firms can attract and retain the best talent, how leaders can get the most from their global mixed teams, and how individuals can develop strategies to attain their long-term career goals.

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.

Last year’s Women in Investment Management conference included sessions discussing the importance of managing one’s personal branding, building networks, identifying sponsors and mentors, serving on boards, taking risks, and raising one’s visibility. Barbara Roberts, entrepreneur in residence at the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School, shared her top 10 insights gained from the event, and Carla Harris, managing director and vice chairman of global wealth management at Morgan Stanley, provided the audience with five battle-tested strategies for success.

Speakers at the 2016 CFA Institute Alpha and Gender Diversity conference include

    • Lucy Kellaway, associate editor and management columnist at the Financial Times.
    • Sallie L. Krawcheck, chair of Ellevate, a global professional woman’s network. Previously, she was head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, CEO and chair at Citi Global Wealth Management, chair and CEO at Smith Barney, and chief financial officer at Citigroup.
    • Ronald P. O’Hanley, president and CEO at State Street Global Advisors, the investment management arm of State Street Corporation.
    • Scott E. Page, Leonid Hurwicz Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics at the University of Michigan and an external faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute.
    • Anita Williams Woolley, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.
  • The innovative presentations at Alpha and Gender Diversity: The Competitive Edge have been designed for women and men, employers and employees, and team leaders and members. Participants can attend plenary sessions targeted toward managing investment organizations and interactive workshops for individual practitioners on improving negotiating skills, developing an executive presence, pursuing corporate board service, and other career topics.

    Register now, and join us in Boston.


    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.