Practical analysis for investment professionals
25 November 2016

Missed Our Alpha & Gender Diversity Conference? Catch Up with These Articles

Study after study has shown that women make a difference. Balanced teams deliver better results. And that means a better outcome for investors.

Indeed, the best, smartest teams are diverse teams. They bring together talented people from different educational backgrounds and cultures, people with different approaches and work styles — some who see the glass half full, some who see it half empty. People of all ages, races, religions, and genders.

Yet while the business case for gender diversity is well established, there remains plenty of work to do. Consider this: Only 18% of CFA Institute members are women. A recent report from Oliver Wyman found that only 15% of portfolio managers globally were women as of December 2015. These are statistics that must change if we want to increase diversity in the financial industry.

Recently, more than 200 men and women gathered for the CFA Institute Alpha and Gender Diversity: The Competitive Edge conference to try and close the gap between theory and practice: to learn about new research as well as best practices for improving diversity at investment firms. The sessions ranged from research on gender differences in the investment profession to tips for women investment professionals interested in corporate board positions to advice on how to become better negotiators.

Here are six blog posts that recap some of the content from the conference:

  1. In her funny and compelling keynote, Lucy Kellaway, the Financial Times columnist and associate editor, admits that fear defined her working life. “But it was not the fear that she inspired in others or the fear that others attempted to instill in her,” notes Peter M.J. Gross. “She was driven by a self-imposed fear of ‘being found out,’ a fear that she would fail to meet expectations. Over time, she found that ‘fear has also been my greatest weapon,’ driving her to meet those daunting expectations. ‘If you’re afraid, you work hard,’ she said. ‘That’s what you do.’” To read more about Kellaway’s “post-fear” life see: “Lucy Kellaway on Being Fearful, and Fearfully Driven.” You will also have access to a free archived version of her presentation.
  2. Sallie Krawcheck, founder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women, and the owner and chair of Ellevate Network, is a vocal evangelist for diversity in general, and gender diversity in particular. “Is there really anybody who believes that the financial crisis that we went through would have been worse if we had more women?’ she asked delegates. ‘Do you really think it would have been worse?’ So what could have prevented the financial crisis and potentially forestall another one? ‘The only answer I have found,’ Krawcheck said, ‘is gender diversity.’” For more takeaways, and access to the webcast of Krawcheck’s full presentation, see Paul McCaffrey’s post: “Sallie Krawcheck Discusses How to Conquer Groupthink.”
  3. We often hear that men are better negotiators than women. But is that true? Hannah Riley Bowles, senior lecturer in public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, disputes this notion. “’While women’s leadership advancement is no longer impossible,’ Bowles noted, ‘it is awfully tricky.’ She advised rising above the maze of pros, cons, and stereotypes and urged women to think about career negotiations from a strategic perspective that embraces a long-term goal or a general vision of where they hope to go and what they hope to achieve. That mapping process includes charting their internal capabilities, the specific contours of their organization, and the desired course toward fulfilling their aspirations.” Susan Hoover expands on these ideas in “Career Negotiation Strategy: Asking, Bending, Shaping.”
  4. “The business case for gender diversity on corporate boards and executive teams is both well established and compelling,” writes Julie Hammond, CFA, in her post, “Gender Diversity in the C-Suite and Boardroom: Blazing a Path.” “Research shows that public companies with female representation on their boards of directors substantially outperform those that don’t.” She expounds on this topic by drawing on the remarks of co-panelists Brenda Trenowden, CFA, and Diane Nordin, CFA, who shared their perspectives and experience of current trends in corporate board composition and governance.  They also offered rich advice on how women in investment management can chart their paths to board appointments.
  5. Executive presence is clearly a topic that resonates with readers: Julia VanDeren’s post, “Executive Presence: How to Present Yourself as a Leader,” was among the top five Enterprising Investor articles from October. In the article, she discusses  some valuable tips shared by Julie Jansen, executive coach and author of I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work.
  6. If you’ve ever wondered what makes one team “smarter” than another — not in the sense of the average IQs, but rather in terms of effectiveness — you will be fascinated by the research on collective intelligence by Anita Williams Woolley, professor at Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University. In my post from this session, “Collective Intelligence: Three Factors for Building Smarter Teams,” I explore some of the findings Woolley shared with the audience.

There were more presentations than those covered above, and even more key takeaways than we have room for. Fortunately, Barbara B. Roberts, an entrepreneur in residence at Columbia Business School and chair of TIGER 21, closed the conference by sharing some of the main points that stood out to her. A few to think about include:

  • Use the phenomenal language from the conference: “Diversity improves corporate performance and adds alpha to portfolios.” Refer to Julia Dawson’s CS Gender 3000: The Reward for Change.
  • The number of women in the profession will not change unless those at the top want it to happen. Meet with your CEO. Bring more men into the conversation and to the next conference.
  • We all have a 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.”
  • Networking, mentoring, and compensation are critical. Beware of bias in your organization and help eliminate it.
  • We need to refocus and work on promoting more women to the C-suite. We’re making progress on increasing the number of women on corporate boards, but don’t forget the C-suite. If you’re in a senior position, “Lean down, yank up!”
  • Have more conversations 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?”
  • Let go of the need to be perfect. Often women will not take chances unless we meet 100% of the checklist. Use fear to your advantage in the workplace, and if you’re post-fear like Lucy Kellaway, use that to your advantage as well.

SAVE THE DATE: Our next Alpha and Gender Diversity Conference will take place in Toronto, Canada, 18–19 September 2017.

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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.

Image credit: Courtesy of Monica Pedynkowski

About the Author(s)
Lauren Foster

Lauren Foster was a content director on the professional learning team at CFA Institute and host of the Take 15 Podcast. She is the former managing editor of Enterprising Investor and co-lead of CFA Institute’s Women in Investment Management initiative. Lauren spent nearly a decade on staff at the Financial Times as a reporter and editor based in the New York bureau, followed by freelance writing for Barron’s and the FT. Lauren holds a BA in political science from the University of Cape Town, and an MS in journalism from Columbia University.

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