Mobilizing for equality- What Can You Do?

Contributed by- Shivani Chopra, CFA

Women in Investment Management (WIM) is an action-oriented initiative of CFA Institute. It is focused on improving investor outcomes by encouraging diversity in the investment management profession. The data presented in the latest annual report of CFA Society India clearly highlights the business case for gender inclusion in our country. For the FY 2016-17, the gender ratio was 90.3% Males to 9.7% Females. Many factors like society landscape, lack of knowledge and opportunities, etc. contribute towards this underrepresentation. It seems that an average Indian mind is not wired to see women leaders in male dominated professions. The news of Nirmala Sitharaman taking over as India’s first full-time woman Defence Minister completely overshadowing other male appointments is a recent case.

While the CFA Institute and CFA Society India fully support this initiative and have taken several steps to raise awareness, all the members must work together to drive the necessary change in a country like India. After all, we are all responsible for meeting investor needs. Below are a few recommendations for our members and employers –

Members and Employers

• Determine a baseline of gender diversity- Analyze your firm’s gender representation at all levels. Are women well-represented at all levels of your firm? Do they serve on your board? Do you have a women’s initiative in place?

• Recruit beyond traditional networks- Women clients often look for advisers who are women, and when a firm doesn’t have satisfactory women advisers, they select other firms that do. It requires search firms to produce credible women candidates for top positions.

• Sponsor, mentor, and ensure the visibility of women- Studies show that women are undersponsored. Mentor and sponsor young female managers, provide opportunities that help them develop their skills, and offer the visibility they need to advance—not only internally but also externally with clients.

• Promote and retain more women. As individuals progress to more senior levels in financial organizations, their assessments are more qualitative, which leads to a bias: Those in leadership tend to hire/promote individuals who are more like themselves. You can develop strategies and tools to overcome these unconscious biases that will significantly impact your firm’s ability to promote women. We know that people are naturally inclined to hire and promote individuals who are like them, so it is a difficult bias to overcome. Keep the women you have by building a culture that is inclusive. Establish metrics that reward the creation of diverse teams. Determine whether your firm has gender pay gaps and address them.

• Create an inclusive culture: Organization culture that makes all employees feel included across its functions is the backbone to all diversity solutions. Decision making should consciously involve employees irrespective of gender and consider their opinion. Have scheduled meetings, within office hours, for all key discussions rather than encouraging informal coteries meeting outside the office. It will encourage women to participate in decision-making

• Promote the CFA Program as a cost-effective, flexible option for career success. Specifically, encourage women to learn more about the Women’s Scholarship Program offered by CFA Institute

We are not expecting members to become torchbearers of feminism but to understand the gravity of the situation. It is natural for females being more comfortable spreading this message, males too have a crucial role to play as they represent ~90% of all CFA Society India members. An Aug’17 news article in Economic Times reported that leading corporates like Deloitte, Genpact, Godrej, Ericsson, and Welspun group are looking at male employees as key stakeholders in the entire process of hiring & retaining more women, taking initiatives to eliminate gender bias, etc. Men as allies can create greater impact and strengthen the programme.

Taken individually, these steps might look like a small insignificant contribution and you may wonder how they will make a difference. Much like the boiling frog syndrome where the mythical frog is able to recognize only sudden changes, human minds too may not notice slow changes. But slow changes get magnified over time. Taking a long-term perspective for our coming generation is important here.

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