Update - October 2016

How can more women be encouraged into funds?

This question was debated by a panel of women leaders in the investment fund industry at Cadwalader's second Women in the City debate.  The programme of discussions is designed to inspire more women to take leadership roles in their organisations by offering open dialogue, useful insights and practical guidance.
Cadwalader hosted a large group of clients and colleagues over breakfast for a very lively panel discussion entitled "Women in Investment Funds: A Fundamental Advantage: Building Female Talent in the Investment Management Sector".

Five takeaways:

1. Little will change if male attitudes don't change - men need to be part of the discussion.

Funds suffer from having less women at entry level, even though they tend to be more meritocratic than other organisations, which has led to a predominance of men and less opportunities for women to progress.  Senior male executives need to be involved in the recruitment of women and actively encourage mentoring and sponsorship programmes.  Positive discrimination has proven to work and the flexible nature of the funds industry should open itself up to more opportunities for women.  Male executives need to encourage and acknowledge that diversity ultimately improves the bottom line.

2. More needs to be done at grass roots level.

More needs to be done at entry level, engaging more proactively with the appropriate calibre of female graduates.  As the pool of female graduates with the relevant disciplines (economics, maths) is small, the bottom of the pipeline would benefit from greater focus.  The industry could benefit from more engagement with high school students through school and university programmes.  Putting more women in front of clients could help male colleagues to acknowledge that they are partner and promotion ready.  The upper end of the industry requires more female representation in order for this cycle to be broken.

3. Investors are demanding greater diversity.

Investors are demanding greater diversity, which is a positive sign that the industry is waking up to change.  Women often bring a number of positive attributes: they often have excellent analytical skills, they tend to be less aggressive and impulsive, and they tend to work well in teams.  Moreover, concentrating the control of managing portfolios with a small number of like minded people can both limit returns and introduce fragility - this is one of the reasons that investors are seeing gender diversification as not only an ethical necessity but as being instrumental to the management of risk and return.  The top down approach has been proven to work in the legal sector and the fact that ethical investors have been prolific in championing change is perhaps a good barometer for the future of women in this sector.

4. Women don't need to act like men.

Women should be more confident in seizing opportunities, just like men do.  Successful women are often accused of being bossy and forthright, but that is often a misconception by men about successful women.  Women should strive to be the best and know that they don't need to act like men to be successful.  Women should be true to themselves, assertive and embrace the fact that they bring something valuable to the table.  Overreaching can pay off.

5. If you are talented in a fund, you can rise to the top.

Funds should be better placed than other sectors to advance women.  Flat structures reduce traditional paternalistic hierarchy and if you prove yourself to be talented in a fund, you can rise to the top.  Funds will need to work on attracting more women at entry level to effectuate positive change and this will take time.  Incremental change can make all the difference to ensuring that the possibilities are realised.  The great news is that the investment funds industry seems open to embracing the opportunity to set an example and champion diversity.

The panel debate was moderated by Audrey Klein, Head of Equity at Valad Europe, and included: Karen McMaster and Ingrid Bagby, Partners at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft as well as Louise Boothby, Investment Principal at Coller Capital and Katherine Ralph, Vice President, Opportunities Funds, Oaktree Capital Management.



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