On March 8, International Women’s Day is marked around the world each year as a call to action for accelerating gender parity. I’ll be celebrating breakthroughs, not barriers on this special day.
Why it’s important
Did you know that women in finance start out at parity but make up just 19% of the C-Suite executives? Or that asset management has the lowest female pipeline representation in the finance sector? From VP level and up, women make up less than 1 in 5 roles in asset management, according to the 2017 Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org.
There is no single answer to why this is the case and no single solution to increasing gender parity in the asset management business. But now more than ever, we’re seeing a groundswell of momentum on this issue across all industries. We’re witnessing a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act, and be gender inclusive. We’re hearing a chorus of voices across social media united by the International Women’s Day hashtag and rallying cry, #PressforProgress.
This isn’t just a “nice to have,” it’s a business imperative. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21 percent more likely to have above average financial returns relative to their peers, according to McKinsey and LeanIn.org’s 2017 study.* To win in business, companies have to win in gender diversity.
I’ve been passionate about battling inequalities for a long time. In college, I sought out classes where I could learn the social science around inequality. I became more passionate about women in the workforce as I matriculated through my own career, and that passion only grew when I became a mother. I have three daughters and I want them to be able to come into a workplace without the kind of barriers that I faced. I want them to feel like they have as much opportunity in their professional career as they do in every other aspect of their lives.
A seat at the table
It’s imperative that women reach out and help other women. In the working world, I think sometimes the greatest impact can be felt when you’re really junior and just starting out. When I was a young investment banking analyst I worked for a woman who was extraordinary at what she did. She took me under her wing and I would say the single most impactful thing she did for me, was put me out front. As a mentor, she didn’t accept the idea that I needed to be an analyst who sat in the background. Instead, she pushed me to the front, gave me a seat at the table, and made me take it.
I don’t think there’s anything more impactful that you can do for a woman than give her the place that she rightly deserves as a full contributor, as a driver of innovation, as a force of positive change in the workplace.
The truth is that women are underrepresented in the workforce and sometimes we need a mentor, someone to help guide, educate, and inform us. Sometimes we need a sponsor, a person who advocates for us and empowers us. Sometimes we just need a friend who can say it’s going to be okay. I felt that to be particularly true as a working mother—balancing work and home life can easily become overwhelming. In my view, there’s no better peer relationship than having another woman to help you through some of those more difficult times.
So what can you do to help accelerate gender parity? We need all of you to be champions and also influencers. Women: speak out, be visible, be brave, and support each other. Find your voices. Men: be the echo chamber. Give women opportunities, support them and advocate for them—push for women to continue progressing in whatever their chosen path is.
International Women’s Day is about the incredible potential that women have and their ability to go out and grasp their potential, while changing the lives of both men and women in an affirmative way. When you speak up for women and work toward gender parity, you’ll be joined by me and millions of others around the globe who will stand with you to #PressforProgress.
Wells Fargo is the lead sponsor of Bloomberg’s International Women’s Day coverage, which will feature a ‘takeover’ of 24-hours of women on Bloomberg TV featuring interviews with notable women from all industries, highlighting both the individual and collective female voices on all topics related to the markets, business, and leadership.
Kristi Mitchem is Chief Executive Officer of Wells Fargo Asset Management.
* McKinsey & Company, Delivering through diversity, January 2018