“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 exercise more!”
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.
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