Why We Need More Women in Capital Markets

posted May 26th, 2016 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

The following post was written by Warren Thomson Sr EVP & CIO, Manulife and Chairman, Manulife Asset Management and posted by him on linkedinĀ in response to my request for “A little help from my friends!!” I am grateful to Warren for taking the time to respond and for agreeing to share his linkedin post but most of all I am honoured to call him a friend!!

As you may have heard, a certain financial industry dinosaur that you all know, still working away on the street, was recently recognized as a Champion of Change by Women in Capital Markets at their annual Gala Dinner in March of this year.

While this honour was greatly appreciated, I have to admit that despite my best efforts, the female to male ratio in our industry and in my sphere of influence has not moved as much as I would have liked in the past 40 years.

On many of our portfolio management teams around the globe, though not all, I am happy to report we have a least one senior woman today. Our Global Head of Operations, our Global Chief Economist and our Canadian Senior Economist are all women, and they are absolutely the most competent people available that could fill those roles. You need only read the work of our economists on our website to see evidence of what I am saying.

Based on some of my conversations and experiences over the years, I think one of the biggest challenges to increasing the number of senior women in Capital Markets today is that many young women still follow the traditional (and some may argue natural) role of choosing to stay home when they start a family, and then choosing to not re-enter a role in Capital Markets when they return to work. Many important factors come into play in these decisions, and there are things we, as employers, can do to help reduce the stresses and barriers involved.

At Manulife, we have implemented a program called WorkSmart that enables people to work full or part-time from home. In North America, close to 30% of our workforce is taking advantage of this on a full or part-time basis. The employees participating in this program tend to be more engaged and productive. Unfortunately, only 10% of our employees have taken advantage of the program within our Investment division, so we have to work harder at this.

Diversification is the only free lunch in investing; it is the one thing you can do to reduce risk and increase returns. The same holds true in the workplace. More diverse teams tend to have stronger performance. Diversity of thought due to gender, race, physical ability and/or sexual orientation can all increase a team’s performance. I believe Canada punches well above its weight in the world today because we embrace diversity more holistically than any other country in the world. The job is not done, but I truly believe we are progressing in the right direction. We need to embrace every opportunity to ensure our teams are always as diverse as we can possibly make them.


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