Spring is nearly here. In spite of the seemingly never-ending snow and cold, the days are getting longer, and the sun just a bit brighter. With a new season just around the corner, optimism is in the air. There is always so much hope in the beginning – so many promises, so much potential, young rising stars, and real progress seems just around the corner. And then – WIIF! We are hit smack in the face with reality.
I am speaking, of course, about another International Women’s Day. Another year where we proclaim the importance of expanding diversity in the investment business, diversity in executive ranks. We women all march off to our conferences where we learn about the many ways in which we are inhibiting our own careers. We listen to inspirational stories from incredible women who have succeeded against the odds. We learn yet again how important diversity is to organizations, as they affirm their commitment to our careers.
And yet the numbers are not budging. According to research by the New York Times women represent just 10% of portfolio managers. CFA Society Minnesota’s own numbers show the number of women who hold a CFA remains stuck in the teens. We have adopted this notion that we just need to introduce women to the business sooner, we need to make them aware earlier. If we could just let them know when they are Sophomores in college, First years, high school students, toddlers. None of that explains, though, why boys somehow figure out there are good career options, and girls don’t.
Maybe girls are not stupid. They are, perhaps, responding appropriately to the very limited set of career options they see as available to them. The are rejecting a culture that appears to them to herald The Wolf of Wall Street, a frat-ish atmosphere that seems anything but welcome. They are reminded of the sense of powerlessness that haunts so many of them in so many ways as they realize what the world has in store for them.
If we expect girls to embrace opportunities in the investment business, they need to see that there is a future for them. They need to see powerful, smart intelligent women succeed in the business – not because they need role models, but because they need to believe that success is possible. It’s hard to see that success is possible when for women, it has been so rare.
Here’s my suggestion for demonstrating that success is possible: Hire and promote talented senior women. We are all weary of hearing that “the women just aren’t there.” Go out and find them. The last time your organization had a senior opening, what did you do to identify a diverse candidate? Was any compensation or bonus tied to success in finding diversity? Did anyone work on a strategy for identifying diverse talent? Did you do anything different from your normal process? If nothing different is attempted, it’s hard to imagine different results.
This is a country that has put a man on the moon. We carry computer/television/phone/gps tracking devices in our pockets. We have developed a pillcam to take pictures of the small intestine, antibacterial nanoparticles, autonomous vehicles. But somehow, we are unable to figure out how to hire diverse candidates to manage our portfolios? This is not even plausible, and lays bare the insincerity of the effort.
It’s time to stop pretending that you want diversity, while doing nothing about it. If you say you want to succeed in this game, then take a swing. Every strike will bring you closer to the next home run.
Are you interested in contributing a blog to this important series? E-mail Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.