Gen­der di­ver­sity for per­for­mance

China Daily (Canada) - - DEPTH - By LI XIANG

For Gil­lian Kwek, a port­fo­lio man­ager with Fidelity In­ter­na­tional in Sin­ga­pore, the job of man­ag­ing as­sets is more like a marathon than a sprint. It of­ten takes pa­tience and the abil­ity to thrive un­der pres­sure.

Be­ing a fe­male fund man­ager in the in­dus­try for 15 years, Kwek, who has a hus­band trav­el­ing as much she does and three en­er­getic school-age chil­dren, said it could be daunt­ing ini­tially for work­ing moms to jug­gle fam­ily mat­ters and work re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Nonethe­less, Kwek is a strong be­liever that gen­der di­ver­sity will lead to bet­ter in­vest­ment per­for­mance be­cause for­mu­lat­ing in­vest­ment strate­gies re­quires a team of “peo­ple with dif­fer­ent life ex­pe­ri­ences, tem­per­a­ment, risk ap­petites and even en­ergy lev­els,” to gen­er­ate new ideas and in­sights.

Kwek shared with China Daily her views on gen­der di­ver­sity in the in­dus­try. The fol­low­ing are edited ex­cerpts from the in­ter­view:

What do you think are rea­sons for women be­ing un­der­rep­re­sented in the in­vest­ment man­age­ment in­dus­try?

Be­sides the smaller tal­ent pool of women in fi­nance and the per­sis­tent so­cial ex­pec­ta­tion for­wo­m­ento give pri­or­ity to their fam­ily roles, the un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion could also come from the na­ture of the in­dus­try, where pro­mo­tion does not fol­low a set path.

This non-lin­ear ca­reer path, cou­pled with the fear — whether real or per­ceived— of be­ing dis­ad­van­taged when­ever one goes on ma­ter­nity leave, may have dis­suaded many tal­ented women from join­ing the in­dus­try or caused them to switch to an­other pro­fes­sion with a more as­sured path to­ward senior roles.

Do you think that it re­quires more ef­fort (such as ef­fort to take care of fam­ily is­sues) for fe­male fund man­agers than their male coun­ter­parts to de­liver the same per­for­mance and stay com­pet­i­tive?

It is true that new work­ing moms may find it daunt­ing to jug­gle look­ing after young chil­dren and man­ag­ing their work re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. But from my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence and ob­ser­va­tions of my peers, they learn to adapt very quickly.

Do you think that gen­der di­ver­sity leads to bet­ter in­vest­ment per­for­mance? And why?

I strongly be­lieve that greater di­ver­sity will lead to bet­ter in­vest­ment per­for­mance, and gen­der di­ver­sity is just one as­pect. In to­day’s volatile and un­pre­dictable mar­ket, you need a solid team of peo­ple with dif­fer­ent life ex­pe­ri­ences, tem­per­a­ment, risk ap­petites and even en­ergy lev­els in or­der to con­stantly look for new ideas, de­bate con­flict­ing views and pro­vide dif­fer­ent in­sights to help for­mu­late in­vest­ment strate­gies.

Do you think fe­male in­vest­ment pro­fes­sion­als tend to be less tra­di­tional and con­form­ity-ori­ented, and more achieve­ment-ori­ented than both their male coun­ter­parts and women in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion?

I would say that if you want to be suc­cess­ful in the in­vest­ment world, you should be some­one who has an in­built com­pet­i­tive streak and who is not afraid to chal­lenge widely­ac­cepted views.

This in­dus­try is def­i­nitely not for peo­ple happy with be­ing sta­tus quo, whether male or fe­male.

What is your view on en­cour­ag­ing more women to en­ter this pro­fes­sion? How can com­pa­nies make progress in terms of at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing fe­male in­vest­ment pro­fes­sion­als?

My ad­vice to a young fe­male aspir­ing port­fo­lio man­ager is to have a long-term plan to develop your­self to be a suc­cess­ful in­vest­ment pro­fes­sional. Es­tab­lish your style, build your rep­u­ta­tion and have a per­sonal brand that dis­tin­guishes your­self from oth­ers.

Most in­vest­ment man­age­ment firms have come a long way in rec­og­niz­ing the in­valu­able contribution of their fe­male em­ploy­ees but there is al­ways room for im­prove­ment.

They can im­prove gen­der di­ver­sity by cast­ing a wider re­cruit­ment net, pro­vid­ing more job flex­i­bil­ity for em­ploy­ees and re­ward­ing good per­for­mance rather than face time in the of­fice.

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