The financial industry has been traditionally a male dominated industry. It wasn’t until the end of the 80’s or the beginning of the 90’s that women made a breakthrough in the industry. Before that, women were mostly only seen in assistant roles such as secretaries, always relegated to the men figure of power. From the end of the 80’s more women started to have more relevant roles in banking, wealth management or fund management. Even nowadays, in 2022, women still do not make half of the workforce in the financial industry, regardless being half of the population, as a Deloitte’s report from 2021 states the proportion of women in leadership roles within financial services firms only rose from 22% in 2019 to 24% in 2021. But what is the role of women within the financial industry?
To look at the evolution of women representation in the industry as well as the experience of women different roles in the industry we have spoken to Stefania Paolo, Country Head Italy, BNY Mellon Investment Management, Anne-Valère Amo, Head of ETF Selection at TrackInsight and Léa Miomandre, ESG analyst at ODDO BHF AM.
Stefania Paolo is the Country Head Italy at BNY Mellon Investment Management, from her leadership position in a top asset management firm, she says that, over her her career she has asked to herself a question that many women in the industry ask to themselves “am I being treated equally to my male colleagues?” Luckily, as she points out, for her the answer has always been a decisive yes, but what many women in the financial industry have those thoughts?
“The financial industry has come a long way from the ‘80s and ‘90s, when money business was associated almost exclusively with the idea of rampant men wearing suits and neckties”Stefania Paolo, Country Head Italy, BNY Mellon Investment Management
As Stefania mentions, the financial industry has come a long way from the ‘80s and ‘90s, when money business was associated almost exclusively with the idea of rampant men wearing suits and neckties. There have been significant improvements and now many large asset managers recognize the need for real gender parity, and the benefits that come with it.
She also mentions that for many asset management companies hiring and empowering female talents means increasing product innovation, having access to a wider and more diversified skillset, and helping to encourage more women to invest – with a broader positive societal impact.
Ms. Paolo states that while there has been significant progress thanks to the efforts of women networks all around the world, and of industry pioneers the industry should continue to push forward for a more inclusive financial industry. As she very well says, the alternative is a mistake we cannot afford.
Anne-Valère Amo, who is the Head of ETF Selection at TrackInsight, mentions that if we don’t want to create a bias in the other direction, gender diversity should result naturally from equal opportunities and not be an end in itself. As she points out, unfortunately, this basic equality has yet to be a reality everywhere.
In her opinion, reducing the current gender gap across the asset management industry will require having more women in key positions and creating a more inclusive environment, and at the same time enabling women to better reconcile their work/life balance without being forced to choose one over the other, and feeling guilty either way.
“Reducing the current gender gap across the asset management industry will require having more women in key positions and creating a more inclusive environment, and at the same time enabling women to better reconcile their work/life balance without being forced to choose one over the other, and feeling guilty either way.”Anne-Valère Amo, Head of ETF Selection at TrackInsight
In her opinion, while the Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped the working environment with the partial or full integration of the WFH model, offering more flexibility in the organization of working time, it can also be a double-edged sword for those who are unable to keep clear boundaries between their professional and personal life.
As a Head of ETF selection, she talks about how the statistics show that women are significantly underrepresented in the asset management industry, and thus the fund selection segment, she says that figures must be near zero for ETF selection, a reality due mainly to the misconception that “passive management means zero risk”.
She points out that in her company’s case, Trackinsight, they largely favour diversity in terms of nationality, language, gender, or professional and personal backgrounds, but face the challenge of bringing in more women. However, she comments that during the Due Diligence process, they have integrated a section fully dedicated to the corporate top-down and bottom-up ESG footprint, where for the Social element, corporate culture encouraging inclusivity and equal opportunity is thoroughly analysed within and outside the group.
Léa Miomandre, who is ESG analyst at ODDO BHF AM, mentions that sustainability teams, like the one she works in at ODDO BHF AM tend to be more balanced, or even composed of more women than men, however, as we also mentioned above, her perception is that more traditional areas of the industry, like the investment departments, tend to remain male-dominated.
“Gender equality has been a key issue for the industry in recent decades, and achieving parity with respect to representation and salaries is now seen as a key attractiveness factor for asset management firms and therefore a differentiator.”
For her, Gender equality has been a key issue for the industry in recent decades, and achieving parity with respect to representation and salaries is now seen as a key attractiveness factor for asset management firms and therefore a differentiator. She says that most firms have been proactive and have demonstrated a strong willingness to improve on this front.
In her opinion, gender diversity is also becoming a key element of ESG analysis, and the assessment of a company’s human capital management practices focuses largely on equal representation at executive and board level, as well as on the level of the gender pay gap.
However, as she points out, despite significant progress, achieving gender equality remains an uphill task for the asset management industry, and equal representation in leadership positions is not being achieved, which has implications for the distribution of salaries. She remarks that too often, there is still a “token woman” in management, a position that unfortunately also sometimes overlaps with the “token person of colour”.
She thinks that also, beyond equality, there is still much to be done to achieve true diversity at a cultural level in the sector by recruiting and promoting people from diverse ethnic, educational and linguistic backgrounds. As she states, “The importance of the issue has been identified, now is the time to make it a priority and make real progress.”
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is clear that, regardless the efforts made in the industry at all levels, there is much more we could do, and there is still a long way to go to reach a more equal asset management industry. Equality is a constant work that we all should do everyday.