By IBS Intelligence
According to a statistics revealed at the Summit for Asset Management (TSAM) in London this week, 78% of asset management firms think their policies on gender equality are “good to very good”, yet only 26% believe the industry in general falls under the same category.
Tackling these and other issues in the sector was a panel at the conference. Alison Jefferis, head of corporate affairs at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, wondered aloud how many women made up the 78% figure.
Yet media exposure and public focus have helped drive an agenda of change, she added. Unfortunately, though, some companies are just not thinking of gender diversity as a business issue.
Peter de Norville, former director of global diversity and inclusion at the Employers Network for Equity & Inclusion, kicked things off by giving an outsider’s perspective.
To him, asset management isn’t exactly leading the gender equality charge, but it’s “certainly not last” in the rankings. de Norville said that “nobody is doing this incredibly well” – it’s a long journey which most companies will never reach the end of. Within financial services, insurance lags behind the most, but a wider perception is that the industry is trying to make a difference.
Chris Newlands, editor of Financial News, went further. “It’s woeful,” he said. It’s not as bad as other industries, but Newlands recons it’s in a bad state either way. Journalism has a big problem, he added, but in banking people just don’t want to talk about equality. Financial News, he revealed, would poll AMs to break down the diversity of their workforce. Five years ago, 50 of the largest managers were asked and not one answered.
Nuala Walsh, a board member for UN Women, stated that there can be no excuses now. “We know the facts and the cases. Even the moral case and the human case is known. Yet the behavioural piece matters. Why is this happening? It’s a smart, educated industry, so why does it continue?”
Jefferis, whose company makeup – in the investments division – is around 26% women, said that they had been focusing on it for years, posting gender data from as early as 2012. “Parity is the target,” she added. “Our aim is 50% representation in all measures, and we’re a long way from that.”
Chairing the discussion, Siobhan Clarke, COO of investment operations at M&G Investments, joked that if she could have a penny for every time a female C-level executive said she’d not faced any discrimination, she’d “not have all that much money at all”.
Deborah Gilshan, governance and stewardship director for Aberdeen Standard Investments, said that there needs to be a culture shift on all levels of the business before any real change can happen.
It’s not just about gender – background comes into play too, with 40% of asset managers coming from private school backgrounds.
De Norville concurred: “You need to look at the difference between diversity as it looks and diversity as it is. If everybody comes from the same background, irrespective of the colour of their skin or their gender, they’ll think the same things and you’ll end up going nowhere.”