Kelly Daries, Institutional Business Development Manager at Prescient Investment Management
As we reflect on Women’s Month, this article may not follow the trend of what you have been seeing in the industry.
Don’t take this the wrong way, what you have been reading is accurate in terms of what is needed in investment management. We do require more female representation in senior leadership roles and investment teams, and this has resulted in a lot of pressure to improve on industry statistics. As our CEO, Cheree Dyers, mentioned in her article ‘Diverse investment teams lead to far better outcomes’ (read the article here), it has been proven that an ideal work environment includes women.
But allow me to address the other side of the coin of being a woman in this industry.
We are not all built the same – celebrate individuality.
I returned from maternity leave in January this year after having my third child. The first two were in my twenties and this one, eight years later…not in my twenties. The clear distinction for me was that it was much easier returning to work with the first two, even though I was younger and had less responsibility earlier on in my career, emotionally I just never questioned my ability to meet the needs of my children as well as the demands of my job.
This year was tougher. I have built a career I’m proud of, relationships that are strong, and have taken on more responsibility in my role, and emotionally, coming back was different. I know more about myself now, and I am more certain of who I am which created a pivotal point in my career. I found myself at a crossroads, questioning my priorities between family and work life. I’m sure this has crept up on many women in our industry in different ways.
Some women opt to delay motherhood, pursue their studies and career first, and then look to have children – medical advances have given us the opportunity to do so. In this instance, you may have already built up your track record in the industry and feel more financially ready to start a family, but this does not mean you won’t encounter that same crossroad.
Now, the decision you make at this crossroad is affected by many factors such as the support of the business you work in, your partner at home, and your financial circumstances, to name a few. As women try to navigate the new dynamics they face after having children, some may opt for positions with less responsibility, or the industry ultimately loses women. In other circumstances, some are even more driven to make a further impact in the workplace.
We are all different and no matter what decision is made, women need to know it’s okay and not feel judged.
Lose the ‘superwoman’ label for celebrating how much we do – encourage sustainability.
Whether we are moms, career-focused and/or both, society still associates us with being responsible for running the household as well. As a result, women typically continue to juggle multiple roles – which simply ends up being too much. Then, to add fuel to the fire, having a dual income is usually still a requirement to sustain a family or a certain lifestyle, and so women are not always given a choice. Let’s not even get started on the pressure of being a single mom.
Let me describe a typical day of mine a few years ago. I would wake up at 4:30am, get ready for work, get two young girls ready for school, drop them off, rush off to the office, do my job to the best of my ability, run out to fetch them (praying that there will be minimal traffic so I can get to them before the school closed), get home by 6pm, cook dinner, bath time, get them ready for bed, clean the house (sometimes with tears because I was so tired), get out my laptop and do more work, try to get to bed by 22:30, and then start all over again the next day. Now throw in a child falling ill, a personal crisis, or even something as menial as fitting in a grocery shop – how do we manage it all? Women also don’t necessarily share the immense pressures, of splitting themselves in two, as, not being able to ‘do it all’ may be perceived as a weakness – especially while trying to prove your worth in the workplace.
People may call it ‘life’ or a ‘season’, but society and businesses need to acknowledge the pressure women feel to be ‘successful’ in both their home and work life and aim to create an environment where women feel comfortable to embrace all that being a woman entails.
Looking back, I am proud of my strength and what I was able to achieve, however, it was not sustainable, and I was definitely not my best self. To my fellow ladies that can relate – it’s okay, but we do need to learn to ask for help, support one another and prioritise ourselves in our decision-making.
You define your success – own it.
As an industry, it has been emphasised that we need more female leadership and portfolio managers, but at the same time, we need to be careful that that does not become the definition of ‘success’. There are many women who are extremely successful in many other roles that still fall within investment management, such as administration, marketing, operations, business development, and human resources. Whether they are embracing who they are and what they want to achieve in their lives, or simply doing what is needed based on their circumstances at that time, the skills and value they add to our industry should be celebrated as equally as women in portfolio manager and executive roles. This also means that there are very capable women, qualified and experienced, who could take up C-suite roles but have just opted not to.
That is also okay.
Celebrate that women have a choice.
As Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo said, “I don’t believe there’s any economy in the world that can be successful without tapping into the incredible potential of women going forward. I just don’t believe that’s possible. I also think almost every economy in the world needs women to have children too, because we need the replacement rate for the world. We ought to sit down and say to ourselves: ‘They need us.’”
Yes, many will argue that increased flexibility, the convenience of online shopping and introduction of office breastfeeding rooms etc., have made it easier for us to “have it all” but as an industry, we should rather celebrate that women are able to define what having it all actually means to them and make their own choices. There should not be undue pressure to reach a certain level but rather encouragement to get the best out of women to have the most impact on our economy. Having a seat at the table, whether it’s in the boardroom at the office or the dining room with your family, we need to find the combination that works best for us.
We should celebrate all women in the industry – not only the ones who are breaking the glass ceiling and paving the way as to how high we can climb. We need to recognise women that continuously show up – no matter what that looks like. Those are the true superwomen – those who are brave enough to be themselves.