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Why 100 Women in Finance Isn't Just About Women

Amanda Pullinger of 100 Women in Finance talks about where her group has made a difference, the challenges that remain and the unintended consequences of #MeToo in finance.

Amanda Pullinger Amanda Pullinger. Photo courtesy of SALT

Worth editor in chief Richard Bradley talks to 100 Women in Finance founder Amanda Pullinger, who is speaking at SALT 2019 today about how inclusive workplaces boost productivity.

For those who don’t know 100 Women in Finance, talk about what the organization is. 

We are a global association for professionals in the finance industry. We have male members and female members, but for obvious reasons, our membership is predominantly female. We have 15,000 members and growing.

And what do you do?

Three things. We put on industry education events—about 125 around the world every year. Those events feature speakers sourced by and the logistics are done by about 500 active volunteer members of 100 Women in Finance.

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Our second pillar is philanthropy. Our philanthropic endeavors focus on three themes: investing in the next generation of young women coming into the finance industry, women and family health, and education. We’ve raised over $18 million.

And our third pillar is peer engagement—engaging our female members peer-to-peer and connecting external organizations with our membership. That includes working with industry partners to ensure that they are getting a more diverse slate of candidates and also working with conference providers to ensure that they can have panels and keynotes that are more diverse in nature.

Why do men join?

For a number of reasons. Men join because they want to hear from people they wouldn’t necessarily hear at the average finance conference. There are men who want to support our philanthropy. And there are men who have teenage daughters and want to see a different world for their daughters. 

You’ve been involved with 100 Women in Finance in various capacities for over a decade. What has changed for women in finance over that period?

I feel like, for the first 16 years of the existence of 100 Women in Finance, we were passive investors. We served our membership in an incredible way. We provided a peer network, we put on fantastic events, we did a lot of good in terms of raising money for charities. 

But the numbers of women in finance have not changed, particularly the senior roles. The percentage of female fund managers around the world is about 7 percent across hedge funds, private equity, real estate and so on. That’s pathetic. People will say to me what an amazing job you’ve done to grow this organization, and my answer is, yes, but I feel that I’ve failed at the one thing that is important, and that is increasing the number of women who are coming into management roles in the industry.

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So what can you do to address the issue?

Last year I  got fed up with the fact that the media often reports that there are no women on the investment side, which I knew was not true. But I didn’t want to come out and say anything until I visualized the fact that these women existed. So last summer I wrote to 400 female fund managers around the world and asked them for two things. I asked them for a head shot and permission to put their face on our webs site with their name and company name. And then I asked them if they’d be willing to speak to 100 Women and external conferences and the media.

What was the response?

We had an unbelievable response. Now, when someone from the media says to me, “Where are the women?” I don’t have to say anything—I can just point to them to our website.

With the onset of the #MeToo movement, we’ve seen a dramatic cultural shift in the past year or so. What’s been the impact in the financial industry?

It is really good that we are talking about pay issues, about sexual harassment in the workplace, what’s the percentage of women who are in senior roles in industry. But what has worried me over the last year is the blame culture. At the end of the day, men are still in power in our industry, and there is no point in alienating and blaming all men for these issues. We have to encourage a productive and forward-looking conversation about what we can all do to change the culture in the industry. 

So what would you say has been the impact of #MeToo in finance?

If anything, what we’ve seen is a backlash against #MeToo—though not publicly—with men saying, “Actually I’m nervous now about being seen with women one-on-one.” 

That’s an unfortunate unintended consequence. How do you address it?

All the data show us that diverse teams produce better results, better decision making. But I worry that in a blame culture we’re never going to move to a place where we say, “This is how we build a diverse team, this is how we overcome the problems that we all have as human beings,” which is that we tend to want to hang out with people who look like us, think like us, have the same experiences. So while I think there are some positives that have come out of #MeToo, I think you have to be really careful. At the end of the day what we want to be doing is changing the culture rather than blaming people.

For more information, visit 100Women.org.

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