Episode 20

Episode 20: Three InvestHer questions for Beth and Laura

Steve sits down with Beth Lee, Senior Director, Derivatives & Quantitative Strategy and Laura Cronin, Managing Director, Public Fixed Income, Credit Research, to discuss InvestHer, a program they started to help advance women's professional development at SLC Management and the asset management industry at large.

Steve Peacher: Hi everybody thanks for dialing in to this episode of “Three in Five.” I'm Steve Peacher, President of SLC Management and I’m really excited today to have with me two people Beth Lee who's a senior director of our derivatives desk and Laura Cronin who's managing director in our credit research group. And Beth and Laura on their own initiative started something really exciting SLC management, a few years ago called InvestHer and I want to talk about that today guys thanks for joining.

Beth Lee: Thanks for having us.

Laura Cronin: Thank you.

Steve Peacher: So before we jump into InvestHer and what you've started, I want to talk about the lay of the land in asset management when it comes to women in the workforce. You know what do you guys see in terms of the challenges that women face in the asset management industry, have things changed over the course of your career and what opportunities do you see for women in this business today?

Beth Lee: Thanks Steve. So as far as the lay of the land, we need more progress in the representation of women and I think the numbers speak to themselves. So to give you a couple of examples. In the U.S., of the total assets under management, which is about $69 trillion, only about 1.3% of those assets are managed by organizations led by women or people of color, so 1.3%. U.S. female portfolio managers represent only about 15% of all portfolio managers and that's actually essentially unchanged since 2000.[1] So while we've seen signs of progress in some areas, much more needs to be done. As far as the challenges, I think much of it is centered around the lack of pipeline of young women seeking to enter the industry. Particularly at the entry level, and then the challenges women face advancing to senior roles in the industry. So for the pipeline challenge, I think we really need to improve the awareness of the financial roles available to young women. And we need to improve the perception of the industry, so the more we can expose young women to the opportunities this industry can provide and show them the strong culture that many firms do possess, the better our chances are to see more young women choose finance or investments for their career. And then the challenge of the lack of representation of women in senior leadership, I think, is, in part, based on often a lack of a combination of lack of mentorship, sponsorship and/or allyship. And all three of those are really so crucial to help women navigate as they advance their career. As far as how things have changed, you know, there has been meaningful improvement from when I entered the industry a handful of years ago. So you know the conversations have moved from having to justify why we need to focus on diversity to understanding the importance of diversity and putting initiatives into practice and embedding that into the culture. So companies are allocating more time and money into development programs and initiatives that are focused on advancing women. Talent acquisition processes are being reassessed and there is a real willingness to have these challenging conversations.

Steve Peacher: You know you guys teamed up a couple years ago to start IvestHer and what's the mission for InvestHer, what are you trying to accomplish you know by starting this initiative.

Laura Cronin: So Steve the mission really hasn't changed since we began a few years ago and it's you know pretty simple in terms of just really helping advance women's professional development at SLC management, but also for the asset manager management industry at large. So we were working in partnership with human resources, as well as other internal inclusion groups to improve the inclusiveness and diversity at SLC Management. What we're trying to accomplish I’d say there's really probably two or three things and number one is basic just increasing the gender representation across all levels within the organization. Number two, helping women advance their careers by better navigating the organization. And then three, really trying to bring the spotlight on our talent acquisition process and our pipeline, so looking at things like where we're recruiting and who represents SLC Management in the recruiting process. And so, those are those are probably three of the things that we've we're hoping to accomplish, we've made some progress on that, and looking forward to working towards that in the years to come too.

Steve Peacher: You know I know firsthand that you've gotten a lot of traction with this internally and there's a lot of activity, what are some of the initiatives, some of the activities that you sponsored over the last couple years and what's on the horizon?

Beth Lee: So we're really proud of both our previous and much of it is ongoing initiative. So to give you some examples, we've launched in office hours program, which is an informal mentoring program we've held and will continue to hold a panel session with SLC affiliates that were recently acquired. And then on the networking front we've held speed networking sessions, we've hosted an external speaker and we've held book club events to help strengthen the networking skills of our members. What's on the horizon, so along with these ongoing initiatives that are coming out of our three committees, we're really excited to continue to enhance our relationship with Invest In Girls, they're a U.S. based community organization and we established a relationship with them in late 2020. And since then we've been helping to assist with their financial literacy program and help to increase awareness of financial roles within asset management. So we're really excited to continue that partnership with Invest In Girls throughout the end of this year and into next year with new programming that there'll be looking to offer, and we hope that that results in building out a pipeline of young women entering the industry.

Steve Peacher: Well, thanks Beth, Laura, this is a big topic, a big broad topic and just to talk about InvestHer, we could spend half an hour certainly much more than five minutes but you've given everybody a great summary. I have one more kind of question unrelated to the workplace, you know we're unfortunately not fully back in the office. And as I’m sure you all, both you both look forward to seeing your colleagues, is there something offbeat that you look forward to when you think about getting back to the office on more of a full time basis.

Laura Cronin: I think for me it's probably one of the things before working switching to the working from home, I was actively participated in our Crossfit programs that we had on site. So as much as I enjoy working out in the basement and you know running around this neighborhood, I am looking forward to getting back into some of the Crossfit programs and being motivated by some of my colleagues, which really I really enjoy.

Beth Lee: And for me I’d say just being back on the trading desk. So I really miss the energy and the camaraderie that comes from sitting on the desk. You know, obviously, that is very much lost from working from home, so enjoying being back with my colleagues on the desk and you know continuing in that banter that that happened pre-Covid and that's not happening now.

Steve Peacher: Well Beth and Laura we're really proud, I’m proud of what you've developed at SLC and thanks for taking a few minutes to talk about it, and thanks everybody for listening in to this episode of “Three in Five.”

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