At­ti­tude key to greater di­ver­sity

Financial Mail - Investors Monthly - - Feature: Asset Management -

CRACK­ING THE trans­for­ma­tion puz­zle, it would ap­pear, re­quires the skills of a Sudoku grand­mas­ter, writes Jo­hann Barnard.

A re­cent Glacier by San­lam study re­vealed women rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the as­set man­age­ment in­dus­try of 18%, with only 4% at fund man­ager level, and a piti­fully low 31% non­white rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Can any­one say old (white) boys’ club?

Sev­eral rea­sons are given for this slow pace of trans­for­ma­tion, but for those on the re­ceiv­ing end of the bias one fac­tor over­rides all oth­ers: at­ti­tude.

“So much more needs to be done just to change the sheer num­bers, and that means a lot more needs to be done to make them bet­ter homes for peo­ple,” says Old Mu­tual In­vest­ment Group MD Khaya Go­bodo.

“We need to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment across the in­dus­try that al­lows peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds, dis­po­si­tions and races to call those places home so they can build their ca­reers.”

He adds that the in­dus­try tends to at­tract highly skilled and am­bi­tious pro­fes­sion­als who would be equally sought after in many other in­dus­tries and ter­ri­to­ries.

“Th­ese skills are highly mo­bile, so as an in­dus­try if we’re go­ing to win that bat­tle, we have to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that is con­ducive to hous­ing di­ver­sity.”

This is a bat­tle with which RMI In­vest­ment Man­ager CEO Al­ida de Swardt is well ac­quainted. She represents a su­per-mi­nor­ity of women who have scaled the cor­po­rate lad­der to head an af­fil­i­ated group of as­set man­age­ment busi­nesses.

Some­thing that has struck her through­out her ca­reer is the thin­ning out of women as they progress through their ca­reers. From grad­u­ate classes that have a near even gen­der split, this changes fairly quickly to a slight male bias at mid-man­age­ment

This is be­cause we fail to cre­ate an ecosys­tem that is em­pow­er­ing and en­abling for all kinds of peo­ple

level, then de­te­ri­o­rates rapidly to a male-dom­i­nated bias in top lead­er­ship, she says.

“This is be­cause we fail to cre­ate an ecosys­tem that is em­pow­er­ing and en­abling for all kinds of peo­ple. As you move up the ranks, the di­ver­sity in the work­force di­min­ishes, and it is at this point that many women as­sess their ca­reer op­tions that are more aligned to their goals and am­bi­tions.”

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