Generally most financial conferences have about 10-15% women in attendance - this conference was unique. There were more than 300 women in attendance from all over the world- instead of seeing the normal grey, black and blue suits talking sports at a typical male dominated conference, there was a splash of colors, vibrance and multi-faceted women in dominance.
Even though there was an attendee bias towards women, the conference content was focussed on an important topic in decision making- is gender diversity important to improve performance of any team and company? The research shows that corporations that fail to promote gender diversity are leaving significant value on the table. The number of women in the Finance industry is a concern as its only 17% and decreasing, compared to 60% in Accounting and 33% in Medicine. This conference offered insights into how we could work together to reverse the trend.
Speakers(both men and women) in the conference echoed their common concern for increasing gender diversity in investment teams, firms and profession. Data showed that diversity in decision making was a key factor in the equation to success. Majority mutual funds are team managed now versus 20 years ago however if these teams continued to be homogenous, not much improvement in decision making had been achieved- Diversity in thinking is important to success. As investment professionals trained to make decisions based on compelling evidence, we should never recommend ignoring the value of gender diversity.
Sallie Krawcheck aptly summarized the show off culture in the male dominated profession often led to poor decision making. Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times entertained the crowd with the "horrendous jargon" used in the corporate life, focusing on an important message to be bold, saying that " “if you’re a post-fear employee, you’re kind of a weird thing to manage.”
We share some of the key takeaways from the conference summarized by Barbara Roberts.
1) The number of women in the profession will not change unless a person at the top wants it to happen.
2) We all have responsibility to fill the pipeline. Connect with women at your CFA societies and at educational events. Offer your time to mentor and help women in the profession. Destroy the myth of the “Queen Bee.”
3) Networking, mentoring, and compensation are critical. Beware of bias in your organization and help eliminate it.
4) We need to refocus and work on getting more women to the C-suite. We’re making progress on getting women on corporate boards, but don’t forget the Csuite.If you’re in a senior position, “Lean down, yank up!”
5) We need to talk more about culture within investment firms. Ask leaders at your firm, “Is our culture holding women back?” and “Do we have a retention problem because of culture?”
6) Give up the need to be perfect. We are not taking chances unless we meet 100% of the checklist. Use fear to your advantage in the workplace and if you’re post fear use that to your advantage as well.
7) We raise the boys! (and the Martin Lukes’)
We encourage you to mark your calendars for the next Alpha and Gender Diversity conference – 18-19 September 2017 in Toronto, ON, Canada. In the meantime, join the Atlanta Society and if you are a member, attend society events for career programs and Women in Investment Management networking events.
We enjoyed the experience of meeting so many women who are leaders in their profession and exchanging ideas with them was exhilarating. Let's join hands to bring a change in our profession!
Aradhana Kejriwal, Treasurer
Christy Loop, VP of Programs
The CFA Institute Career Managementteam is focused on delivering content addressing the career topics that our members want and need most. To achieve this we're conducting a short survey of members through the end of October 2016, asking responders to rank the importance of a variety of career management topics.