Pushing ahead on gender parity in investment: Future IM/Pact

The twin trends of continued consolidation of superannuation fund and the growing internal investment teams at those funds presents an opportunity for the superannuation fund industry to collectively break down structural barriers to gender parity in the industry.

Yolanda Beattie, founder of the Future IM/Pact initiative, which is aimed at increasing the diversity of talent coming into investment management industry, noted that progress in recruiting more women into investment management has been made in recent years, mainly in mid-level roles.

In a recent white paper, Where are all the women, Beattie cited research 2020 research by HESTA of its 60 investment partners' gender composition, which found that aggregate gender composition has improved from 17% in 2018 to 22% in 2020.

The white paper also cited Mercer research which found that in the funds management sector, Australia ranked 12th out of 22 in the world on gender diversity with just under 10% of key decision makers (KDM) being women.

However, Beattie emphasises that the current trends of fund mergers and increased augmentation of internal investment management teams at super funds provides a moment to act.

"When we look at what's happening we see two opportunities - the mega-funds being formed and the recognition that the collective power of solving deeply institutional problems is a vital component to complement whatever is done individually," Beattie said.

Beattie cites three structural barriers that need to be overcome to improve gender diversity: front office  investing  teams  are  small, turnover is  necessarily  low  and  junior roles  require  at least two  years'  related  work experience.

Because the challenges are structural, they need to be addressed at an industry level.

"The big challenge is a lot of the big funds will say we're big enough and we can do this ourselves, and they might be able to do the university piece, but because they only hire a few graduates a year, the broader piece of this is the proposition of building the groundswell of female talent with passion, commitment and networks," Beattie said. "That's what no individual fund can do."

Supporting women in the industry means creating the networks to bring them to the industry at the graduate level and then expanding those networks so that women learn and grow.

"This is challenging for the small firms that don't have the HR teams to create that structure around that idea," Beattie said. "Then you get to the sponsorship piece - after the first three to five years of a career, how do we build the capacity of leaders to effectively advocate the talent? That's where we have to leverage reputational capital and connect female talent to opportunities and networks."

"There are a range of different ways organisations and leaders can support talent," Beattie said. "But also, juniors and leaders have to focus on delivering results for their clients."

Because it is time-consuming to develop efficient networks to drive talent development and promotion, the answer is in collective action at the industry level, Beattie believes.

"We have to facilitate that process of being able to really enable talent," she said. "What does it take to enable talent, to drive that self-reflection that then will be the impetus for action? All of this recognises that if you look at it from the sponsorship program point of view, it's pretty hard for a smallish fund or a medium sized fund to do that."

Since launching in July 2018, Future IM/Pact has supported women learning more about the investment management industry and helped 23 women secure intern, graduate or junior analyst roles. Current partners are Australian Ethical, Cbus, Fidelity, Hesta, Jarden, Macquarie, Mercer, MLC, Munro Partners, Perpetual, QIC, Schroders, Sunsuper and Vinva.

Read more: Future IM/PactYolanda Beattie