Women in investment management are “seriously concerned” about the lack of equal treatment and opportunities they face based on their gender, according to the University of Sydney’s Non-Traditional Investors report.
The report, which studied 124 women in middle-ranking and senior positions in investment management, found that while women were attracted to the profession because they wanted to influence key decisions, the gendered issues they had faced had disappointed them.
Over one-fifth of participants had experienced offensive behaviours or remarks relating to their gender at work, while one in eight said they had been sexually harassed at their current workplace. Many also said they and their female colleagues had been excluded from male-only social events, particularly sports events like golf tournaments, poker nights and boat trips.
Reports of conscious and unconscious bias favouring male colleagues in recruitment and promotion processes were common, with many study participants calling the industry a “boy’s club”. While women were already underrepresented in the industry at 17 per cent, this was even worse in more senior roles.
“These are highly capable and ambitious women, managing billion-dollar investment portfolios and working in a sector that is at the heart of our economy. The gender inequality is worrying for all of us,” an author of the study, Professor Rae Cooper, said.
The research looked at what businesses could do to improve the industry for women, fidning that organisations needed to enable a better work-life balance for parents working in investment management. Fifty-two of the women surveyed said that the lack of accommodation of working mothers’ needs was a critical issue.
“Giving women the same opportunity to advance as well as equal treatment in work teams is key to building critical mass of women in investment management occupations,” the report’s author, Dr Sarah Oxenbridge, said.
“It’s important that leaders in these firms establish ‘tone from the top’ in showing genuine commitment to improving gender diversity in the sector. But it’s equally important that this commitment plays out in the actions and behaviours of direct managers.”
Responding to this representation issue, Mercer, in collaboration with many leading businesses in the superannuation and funds investment spaces, recently launched Future IM/Pact, which specifically aimed to improve the representation of women in investment management.
Super Review also would recognise and support women who are standing out as investment managers and working to further women’s representation in the financial services industry more broadly at its annual Women in Financial Services awards, which would be held in Sydney next week.