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We need a better balance

For financial professionals only

In our latest #AdviseHer article, Jasper Thornton-Boelman discusses the ongoing challenges with achieving the right gender balance in our industry.

I recently took part in a panel discussion on the role of gender in investing and diversity in our industry. Five of the six panellists were men. Not an appropriate line up, but an almost perfect reflection of the fact only 17% of senior professionals in financial services are women (1). So why does the imbalance persist?

Short supply

As part of Parmenion’s #AdviseHer campaign, we question gender diversity amongst the fund managers we work with and track year on year changes (see our 2022 findings here). One of my biggest frustrations when questioning a virtually all-male fund management team on their lack of diversity is hearing, “we’d like more women, but don’t get the applicants”. Can we really be surprised that women are reluctant to join an office full of men – quite often of a similar background? That’s not an attractive environment.

In the interests of fairness and transparency, fund managers could quite rightly ask the same of us. And our answer wouldn’t be brilliant, either. Parmenion Investment Management (PIM) currently has 2 females in a team of 12. There’s that 17% figure again, and it’s certainly something we are determined to improve.

Alongside the working environment, how job applications are framed can make a real difference. On average, men will be happy to apply for a role if they meet 60% of the criteria, while women will strive for a 100% match (2). Employers who reconsider the long list of ‘nice to haves’ and focus on what really matters could find themselves with a more interesting shortlist.

Moving up

Career progression could make financial services an attractive industry for women, and there’s evidence that seeing women in leadership roles can unlock wider change.

Deloitte research shows that, for every woman added to a company’s C-suite (CEO, CFO, CIO etc), there’s a multiplier effect where 3 women rise to senior leadership roles (3).

The cause isn’t entirely clear. It would be great to think it shows progression led by inspiration, but I fear could simply be that it needs a woman in charge to open the door for others.

Either way, more women holding senior positions is clearly a good thing. Not just for the knock-on effects in companies benefitting from fresh thinking and a different perspective, but because greater recognition is deserved.

Whether the aim is to promote better investment returns, better conversation, or just because it’s the right thing to do, finding a better gender balance needs to be front and centre. At Parmenion we’ll continue to press the fund managers we work with, and hold ourselves just as accountable.

(1) https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/research/research-note-gender-diversity-in-uk-financial-services.pdf

(2) https://hbr.org/2014/08/why-women-dont-apply-for-jobs-unless-theyre-100-qualified

(3) https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/financial-services/women-in-the-finance-industry.html