This article first appeared in Investment Week, 5th March, 2019
At the start of this week, my firm City Hive was honoured with an invitation to open trading at the London Stock Exchange by FTSE Russell. The timing of this was particularly poignant, given that it is International Women's Day this Friday. This is one awareness day that has gained real momentum over the years, even among large corporations in the industry.
Why shouldn't it? It is a day that serves to highlight the much overlooked and undervalued contribution of women to society. It also stands as a reminder that we are far from achieving true gender equality globally, both for men and for women.
This year's theme is #Balanceforbetter, which sits nicely alongside our primary aim for a more balanced asset and investment management industry, which enables everyone to be rewarded on merit. I will do so by drawing, briefly, on an anecdote from another industry: intensive chicken farming.
I recently watched a TED-style talk by an expert charged with selling mass battery-farmed chicken meat. How do they sell such a brutal process to consumers who want to think the meat comes from free-range birds pecking away in sunny fields?
They apply three strategies. Firstly, they rely on the authority of the label. Meaningless words such as 'Farm Fresh' or '100% natural' nevertheless suggest somebody has authorised this, so people accept it must be true.
Secondly, they focus on 'progress' or 'innovation' rather than principle; mass production means prioritising efficiency and diverting attention from distressing living conditions.
Finally, they rely on wilful blindness. Consumers choose not to see uncomfortable things they know are happening.
With the gender pay gap reporting deadline just weeks away, the industry should take note that this number will not improve if people hide behind the same three tactics. Collaboration and real action is required.
The industry needs to truly allow everyone to develop their potential. Cut the labels and the '-isms'. Less talking and more doing.
We can also use our power as investors for good. We can wield great influence by insisting the companies we invest in behave in an unbiased way. We can ensure company management understands the importance of an equal and fair work culture to their business.
We have also seen a monumental shift in our industry over recent years through a growing focus on sustainability. We now need to keep evolving and shift our focus onto diversity, inclusion and equality.
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