Following hot on the heels of International Women’s Day In March is the annual deadline for publishing gender pay gaps at the beginning of April, which leads me to reflect on why the investment and finance world remains so male-dominated. Traditional gender stereotyping starts early: it’s still the case that the caring professions are typically seen as female domains, whereas Stem careers, including finance and investment, are seen as the preserve of men. The media portrayal of the City as Gordon Gekko meets The Big Short does little to dispel the testosterone-infused stereotype.
The organisation that I work for is not sexist. Schroders is an amazingly welcoming firm and my experience has been incredibly positive. A history of hundreds of years gives stability and promotes a long-term view; but it can also mean that we do things in a way that has been designed by men.
Unconscious bias means that leaders are expected to look and behave in a certain way. We have fewer female job applicants, at all levels, and even if we can recruit a balanced workforce through affirmative action – as we do at entry level – retention and progression have historically been lower for women.
But things are changing. Discrimination is not tolerated, everyday sexism is being called out and unconscious biases challenged. There are more women in investment and we are supporting each other rather than competing for a single place at the boardroom table. Times have moved on: boards are now much more diverse places and I’m thrilled that the Schroders board is now 45 per cent female. I believe that gender equality is good for everyone, extending opportunities to break from limiting gender stereotypes. It means a better balance for all.
Balance is important for me. I work flexibly with a day from home at least once a week. I value the extra time this gives me with my children, saving many hours of commuting, and giving me headspace for thinking and the ability to include volunteering alongside my career (I’m governor of a school and trustee of a foundation). It’s a balance that is never quite at equilibrium but, as Michelle Obama said, "having it all just isn’t possible". Something always has to give.
I am supported in making these choices for my career and my family by a great flexible working policy, by forward-thinking leaders and supportive colleagues. By embedding these policies and embracing a more equal culture, we are paving the way for the next generation of women in investment. It is our responsibility to keep breaking down barriers so that women can continue to push towards equality.
Kate Rogers is head of policy at Cazenove Charities