The Beqaj Interview

posted April 1st, 2011 by Janet Graham - One Comment

This is the second in a series of posts I will publish based on an interview I did with Jim Beqaj to gain his perspective on the progress of women in the financial services industry. Jim is a respected veteran of the financial services industry and author of the recently published “How To Hire The Perfect Employer” which I reviewed in a post earlier this week. (Check out my review; I loved his book!!)


I asked Jim whether he thought that women face obstacles, difficulties, road blocks in the corporate world which are different from those faced by men? He responded:


“Okay, so let me answer the first part.  Absolutely. Absolutely without any question.  First of all, just by the plain fact of sheer numbers there are more men in the financial services industry than there are women, so that’s an obstacle.  You have ten guys to choose from and you have one woman to choose from.  I think that’s one.  I think most organizations pay lip service to women and diversity, probably less so in Canada than the States.  So I think that they face first and foremost the challenge of being outnumbered.  In the legal industry it’s different, right.  Fifty percent of the people coming out of law school are women and so by virtue of numbers you have more women to pick from and it becomes less an issue of qualified or not qualified, because she’s a woman.  If there’s 25 women to pick from versus two women to pick from I think that that’s just an inherent natural bias, if you will, by number.”


“I think secondly, like it or not, the desire to bear children means some women exit the business which further reduces the number of women in the pipeline.  Now some of them may come back in later in their lives but it just makes the numbers smaller for the available jobs that there are and I don’t think a lot of organizations have figured out how we make it easier for them given that they are bearing children and they are taking time off and those types of things.  I think it takes extraordinary organizational thinking about how to do that and I think the financial services industry, one that preaches creativeness to their clients on issues of financial management, is not particularly creative when it comes to managing their own business.  They do a lot of things around women’s issues and diversity issues but they are more feel good types of things it’s not done at a really  deep level.  In one of the institutions I deal with where I know a lot of people and I like the company, just to give you an example, it probably has one of the highest percentages of women employed throughout the place and it’s probably one of the most diverse institutions in the industry. They pay recruiters a 25% premium over and above the regular recruiting fees for female and other diversity candidates.  It tells me they’re serious about it, right, whereas 99% of all the other institutions are not. This institution actually tries to drive the recruiting fee up and they already pay top dollar for recruiting. They pay a bonus on top of an already high recruiting fee, so they create a real incentive for me to go out and beat the bushes and find qualified women for them, or diverse racial and geographic candidates and things like that.  It’s a real incentive, right.  Somebody who doesn’t do that, they get ten guys to choose from versus one woman to look at and when you have a time management issue,  it’s a lot easier to pick the guy.”


“I think those two things are probably inherent road blocks that aren’t set up by anybody, they just happen to be natural, but I think those two road blocks actually become part of the thinking.  I mean, let’s face it, guys are sitting in senior corporate offices and they’re looking at a woman and they’re asking the question is she going to get pregnant, is she going to leave, is she going to come back, are we going to invest all of this time and I’m not saying it’s right but I think it’s reality and so the greater number of women that you have, the more that minimizes that sort of view of the pool of talent.”


What Strikes Me?

The sheer number of men versus women in the securities industry represents an obstacle for women


Most organizations pay lip service to women and diversity


Women bearing children means some women exit the business  which further reduces the number of women in the pipeline and the talent pool. Women may come back  to work but it still makes the number of female candidates for available jobs smaller


Organizations have not figured out how to make it easier for women given that they bear children and take time off to do it


Guys are sitting in senior corporate offices and they’re looking at female candidates and they’re asking questions like is she going to get pregnant, is she going to leave, is she going to come back, does it make sense to invest all of this time and money in her. This is reality


Greater numbers of women  in the candidate pool, minimizes this type of thinking


What Strikes You?

Please add your comments.


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One Response to “The Beqaj Interview”

Comment from Jed Smith
Time April 3, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I loved this article and interview, which my father in law sent my way. I want to share one of my favorite authors’ words on society and women:
“An accurate charting of American women’s progress through history might look more like a corkscrew tilted slightly to one side, its loops inching closer to the line of freedom with the passage of time–but, like a mathematical curve approaching infinity, never touching its goal. The American woman is trapped on this asymptotic spiral, turning endlessly through the generations, drawing ever nearer to her destination without ever arriving. Each revolution promises to be the revolution that will free her from the orbit, that will grant her, finally a full measure of human justice and dignity. But each time, the spiral turns her back just short of the finish line. Each time, the American woman hears that she must wait a little longer, be a little more patient–her hour on the stage is not yet at hand. And worse yet, she may learn to accept her coerced deferral as her choice, even to flaunt it.” 1991, Susan Faludi – Backlash

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