A lack of gender diversity in capital market roles across organizations is detrimental not only to women who want to become leaders in this space, but also for firms and clients who would benefit from the talent and perspective these professionals have to offer.
“Women are typically considered to have higher EQs, which makes them more attuned to their clients’ needs. They listen more, which often enables them to build stronger relationships,” said Meriem Mehdaoui, CFA, Managing Director, PBY Capital.
“Understanding what your client needs is what allows us to better represent them, to establish a dialogue to develop relationships on a solid foundation of mutual understanding. It also helps us grow; it’s through meaningful conversations that we can forge partnerships, collaborations, and even create new products.”
Diversity across an organization also means firms’ diverse client base is better represented, according to Heather Mason-Wood, CFA, President and Chief Strategy Officer, Canso Investment Counsel Ltd.
“Clients feel that their voice is going to be better heard if you have diversity in thought leadership,” said Mason-Wood, whose firm’s board is made up of 83 per cent women.
“As a company, we want the pool of talent that we’re choosing from to be as diverse as possible so that we can select the very best candidate. And if that candidate needs to take time to have children or deal with life challenges, we want to find ways to support them so they can either stay in the workforce or return when they are ready.”
To Mason-Wood, one of the barriers women face is around some firms’ culture and how they can present themselves as stressful, inflexible working environments that might be hostile toward families.
“If firms offered more flexibility – whether it’s flex time, flex space, a four-day a week – I think then there’d be a lot more opportunity,” she said.
“But that’s a matter of company culture and the tone has to come from the top.”
The leadership aspect is a key one, according to Odette Hutchings, Chief Operating Officer, Women in Capital Markets, a non-profit organization working to accelerate equity, diversity, and inclusion in finance.
New policies will mean very little if they aren’t culturally-accepted practices within the organization, or if employees fear they will be stigmatized or held back by making use of the flexibility that’s being offered, she said.
“If people at the top are not making use of those policies, they will be stigmatized within the organization,” said Hutchings.
“Changing culture is very difficult. It really is a long-term battle against systems that have been in place for a long time, and it does take a high level of commitment from the top to challenge old ways.
But at the end of the day, that is what’s needed to level the playing field for women and bring men into caregiving – which is the other big piece. Women will not be able to get ahead in their careers until the men in their lives are participating in caregiving at higher levels.”
To Jacqueline Szeto, Director of Investment Programs at Canso Investment Counsel Ltd., it’s also important for anyone interested in financial jobs to understand just how many roles make up “capital markets,” and how much the day-to-day demands may vary depending on each role.
“People don’t realize working in capital markets doesn’t mean you have to be in the trading room or be a fund manager,” she said. “There are a lot of jobs in the industry – from back office, valuations, to marketing to CEO. All of these people help execute the overall goal: To create efficiencies between someone who has money and someone who needs to borrow money, which at the end of the day, is all capital markets are trying to do.”
But hiring for a lot of roles can be highly competitive, so it’s important to build a strong network early on, and for the industry to create better mentorship and networking opportunities for women, she added.
“Even at the high school and university levels, students need to learn how to network, to make a connection with someone without jumping right to the ask, making eye contact, learning how to communicate with professionals, being helpful themselves – it’s a bit of a lost art these days,” Szeto said.
For women who are considering jobs within capital markets, PBY’s Mehdaoui encourages them to trust their skills and training, and to embrace their individuality.
“Don’t feel intimidated or think you have to do things exactly like your colleagues do in order to succeed,” she said.
“Be curious and open to learning, find a mentor who can help you become familiar with this new landscape, and rely on your skills. Trust in what you can achieve.”