“If you build it, they will come”, isn’t just a quote from
an 80s classic, it’s a mindset that employers should take to heart. If you
create the right environment, the audiences, customers, employees or others
that you want to attract will come to you. It’s an idea that The Future
Laboratory, the setting for our annual summer social has taken to heart,
creating a bee-friendly haven, complete with plants and flowers to attract
nature’s hardworking pollinators. So how can the City learn from this and
create the right environments to attract, retain and celebrate our own
underappreciated workers bees – the women in the industry?
Interestingly, the bees were in an angry swarm when we met,
a state that perhaps reflects the current climate in the City noted Bev Shah.
An angry swarm is gathering because despite numerous conversations, the
rhetoric around diversity isn’t really changing.
What would our speakers – Wendy Appleton, Head of Sales – UK
Wholesale and Retail for Pictet Asset Management, Jeannie Dumas, Head of
Corporate Communications and Shareholder Relations for Hermes, and Jackie
Mills, Director of International Marketing for Eaton Vance make of this
assertion as they took the stage, or in reality the winding plant-filled
staircase to address the crowds?
All three women had followed varied and unusual paths into and
upwards in the City. Wendy began as a financial adviser, and an on-the-road
consultant before taking the professional examinations. Jeannie’s path included
working in the American political arena before she moved into communications
and Jackie initially was pursuing a career as a translator.
The speakers offered mixed and candid opinions on diversity
in the City. While there was some optimism around increased gender pay gap
reporting, the rise of diversity officers and the fact that there are more
women in senior positions than ever, there was a general consensus and concern
about whether many diversity initiatives were more about lip service and box
ticking that actually bringing about real and meaningful change. As Jackie put
it, more work needs to be done to ensure that firms and individuals alike are
being authentic in terms of how they are embracing diversity and inclusion.
Take positive discrimination for example. Speakers expressed
concerns about how this could damage meritocracy, and the importance of
opportunities being given to underrepresented groups because they are the best,
and not simply because of diversity quotas. Importantly, this was not how individuals
wanted to progress or be seen to. However, with the City so skewed in terms of
representation, was it not necessary to ever so slightly ‘rig the game’ as Bev
put it, to make things right?
So, what could organisations do to try and address the lack
of representation in the industry? Encouragingly all speakers spoke positively
about the various mentoring, internship and training programmes that their
firms have implemented, with a number of these programmes focusing specifically
on young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds. It was widely
agreed that one way to bring more diversity to the industry is by exposing the
asset and investment management industry to people who would normally never
have known much about it. The onus with this is firmly with our industry
leaders who need to take the reins in supporting and promoting these
initiatives that expose the industry to a more diverse talent pool.
Before it was time to enjoy networking alongside the
delicious street food that was waiting to be served, each speaker was asked to
give a piece of advice to their younger self. Don’t settle, demand that pay
rise and the treatment you deserve thought Jeannie. Work hard, and embrace your
strengths and differences was Jackie’s stance. As for Wendy? “Drink less and
While the event was a huge success, there certainly wasn’t
any time to rest on laurels. The following day, the City Hive management team
were off to the Portfolio Adviser awards where Bev and Mandy had judged the
first ever ‘Best Diversity Initiative’ award. Congratulations to LGT Vestra who
took the Platinum prize and Brooks Macdonald who scooped the gold.
City Hive would like to thank our summer event sponsors
Eaton Vance, Hermes and Pictet Asset Management. It takes a huge amount of
courage to support an event like this and we are grateful for the ongoing
commitment to a more balanced industry.