Money management needs more women

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Mad Men / Facebook

  • Christine Hurtsellers is chief executive officer of Voya’s Investment Management team, the asset management business of Voya Financial.
  • She writes that i mmediate action paired with a long-term strategy is key to achieving gender parity within a company.

When I entered the asset management workforce in 1987, I was advised to dress like a man. Someplace there is a photo of me wearing a gray suit with a bowtie and glasses to prove it. While the bowtie is long gone, I cannot say the same for the other challenges.

A recentMcKinseystudy reveals that fewer than two in 10 C-suite leaders in asset management and institutional investing are women. Further, according to the 50 percent of men in the study who think 10 percent of women in senior leadership positions is enough, that is sufficient. It’s clearly not. Particularly since women hold nearly half of entry-level positions in this space. Where is the disconnect between entry level and senior roles?

Morningstarfound that having one or more women on a fund’s management team improved the odds that a new fund’s launch would attract enough assets to be successful. Yet, they discovered that justone in 10U.S. funds has a female portfolio manager. Globally, it is one in five.

Not surprisingly, the collective business community agrees these numbers need to change. For example,the 30% Club, launched in 2010, is a group of business leaders committed to better gender balance at all levels of their organizations, including corporate boards. Rod Martin, Voya Financial CEO, is a member of this forward-thinking organization. I’m very happy to say that four of the nine independent directors on Voya’s board are women. But despite groups like this, and the involvement of progressive senior leaders,why have we not seen a change in the financial space?

No one person has the answers, but we can all agree that 2030, the year McKinsey predicted that we will achieve gender parity, is too long to wait. We have to start now.

Start within your walls

It is not the loudest voices that are going to make this change happen (though we do need those voices to keep speaking up), but the people who roll up their sleeves and work within their own organizations. We must start within our own walls.

At Voya Financial, half of our employees are women, half of the independent directors on our board are women, and nearly half the C-suite is women. For a Fortune 500 financial company, this is not the average, but it should be. Stock performancehas proventhat investors support companies with numbers like this.

VOYA Financial CEO of Investment Management Christine Hurtsellers

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VOYA Financial CEO of Investment Management Christine Hurtsellers
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VOYA

This did not happen by coincidence. Our CEO was a catalyst for top-down support of gender parity from the beginning. Voya had the advantage of a fresh start. It spun out of another company, allowing time to build a gender-balanced executive team. But how many companies given a fresh start, or just starting out, still fail to address gender parity as a strategic imperative from Day 1?

We need leaders who make this a core business priority, not just an HR initiative. Gender parity is more than a goal to strive for; it is part of a successful strategy. Once seen that way, change can happen more quickly

Call each other out

Gallupfound that more women prefer a male boss than prefer a female boss, suggesting that even women have an unconscious bias toward each other. Being cognizant of those biases now will help us meet our goals.

I’ve seen this bias firsthand when the interview pool gets down to two candidates, one male and one female. People raise certain “red flags” for the women that never come up for the men. Is she assertive enough? Will junior employees walk all over her? If I didn’t address this bias for what it was, we may not have secured some of our best employees.

Recognize that it takes time

When the Chicago Cubs were down 3 to 1 in the 2016 World Series, they did not win right away. It took seven games, and many innings. But they got there, because they had a vision and a will to win.

The corporate boardroom isn’t a baseball field, but it is an example of patience. It is frustrating not seeing the numbers immediately change. I can’t even count the number of women and men who’ve expressed this sentiment, myself included. But we must act with the long-term in mind. Immediate actions such as speaking up when something seems off and initiating productive workplace conversations can help make much-needed change happennow.

But we must not lose sight of the fact that these actions are all part of a longer-term strategy. If your company does not have a strategy for bridging the gender gap, implement one now. We need immediate actions to succeed, but they will not work if not paired with a longer-term approach.

With short-term progress comes long-term change. We can and will make it happen.

Christine Hurtsellers is chief executive officer of Voya’s Investment Management team, the asset management business of Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE:VOYA).