The Beqaj Interview

posted April 6th, 2011 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

This is the third 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 previous post. (Check out my review; I loved his book!!)


I asked Jim what he thinks accounts for the documented lack of progress of women in both the securities industry and in the corporate and professional worlds in general. In essence, it is the same problem across the board and has been documented by everybody. He responded


“Well, you know, obviously if it’s law firms as well, the statistic that I would like to see is the statistic of the number of men who come into the industry and the number of men that leave the industry versus the number of women that come into the industry and the number of women that leave the industry for whatever reason.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s to raise a family or do something different, whatever it is.  I’ve never seen that statistic but I think that it will probably bear weight in terms of just sheer numbers.  It’s probably 90% men that come into the industry and never leave it, whereas I don’t know what the percentage of women would be but it would probably be fairly high, it would likely be at least 50%. So again, not making an excuse, but the sheer numbers difference I think is one reason.”



“Then I think that there’s not enough emphasis, to tell you the truth, early on in the university recruitment programs, to make a concerted effort to hire more women into summer programs and things like that.  Anything that you want to accomplish requires focus, time and commitment, I don’t care what it is. If you’re not focused on it, it doesn’t get done. I’ll give you an example, my daughter has worked at one of the banks for a couple of summers, I won’t say who, and they’ve had nothing for her to do, nothing.  No work.  Absolutely, no work.  She’s been kind of sitting there and she’s bright and she gets all these great reviews and she’s worked at a couple of different institutions, not just one, but has had absolutely nothing to do.  So they have this bright, young, affable university-educated young woman and they are not focused on her at all.  There’s a classic person, right, and I sent her off to see a couple of women in the institution and it made no difference. In fact, I’ll tell you one other thing that has been of particular interest to me.  Senior women don’t help other women.”



“I have had, in the last two to three years, some spectacularly talented ladies come through this room and you would think that the minute I found someone and said to my clients you’ve got to meet this person, she’s female, vibrant, brilliant, you know, all of those things, right, people would be thanking me, applauding me.  Two institutions, two years later, repeated e-mails, and they still haven’t seen these women.  One institution, yeah, gee, don’t know where we’d fit her in and, you know, she must be aggressive etc etc. I have approached senior women with these candidates. They are not being interviewed by women, senior women within the organizations will not see them and you know when I phone guys and ask them to see these people they see them.  So one of them has been hired by a fund manager because the minute he met her he went, wow, she’s fantastic, I’m going to hire her, and he did.  And the other woman is working on a project for another institution but they’re not open to hiring her.  The problem with these places is that if you’re really going to change the dynamic you have to be open to the fact that you may not have a job slot that fits perfectly but the person is so good you think you’ve got to have them in the institution and you’ll figure the role out later, right.  But these places, you know, the financial services industry isn’t very good at that kind of thing, right, particularly in Canada.  I mean, in the U.S. they could put them in Strategy, they could put them in all kinds of other sort of line roles, support roles, I don’t mean support as in EA support, but real meaty type of stuff.  We don’t do that in Canada.  I mean the senior women we both know, these people, I bet if you asked them they wouldn’t tell you any particular senior women reached out to them and helped their careers or anything else.”



“If you think about the Italians, the Indians, the Pakistanis, all those ethnic groups, those people reach out to their people whether they be Jewish or Catholic or Christian or whatever, right, but when it comes to gender it’s a funny thing because women complain about the fact that they don’t bring more women up but, you know, none of them are going to Western or Queens or anywhere else and saying, listen, we want to start finding the bright young female minds in first year and second year; here’s a program and we want to hire young women in the summers.  They have a job with us for four years in the summers and we’re going to put them in different groups and we’re going to give them exposure and we’re going to test them so that we make sure that they’re in the right areas for them and we’re going to challenge them and they’re going to tell their friends and this institution is going to be seen as a great place for women who want to grow through an organization.  If you think about, companies like Bell and GE and a lot of other companies or insurance companies they have a lot of women throughout the organization on the fund management side of the business but the securities industry doesn’t, in my opinion.  They would probably tell you they have a million programs for women in capital markets and all of these types of things but I think that’s part of the problem.”


What Strikes Me?


It’s a numbers game in terms of the lack of progress of women in the financial services industry; there are simply not enough women entering the business and significantly more leaving the business over time



Recruitment programs at universities must be designed to ensure they make a concerted effort to bring women into the industry and its firms, from the very inception of and throughout their university career



Anything that you want to accomplish requires focus, time, and commitment



Senior women don’t help other women



What Strikes You?


Please add your comments.


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