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How asset managers nurture women in tech

The paucity of female technologists in asset management was put in stark relief last week when T Rowe explained its increased gender pay gap by pointing to the small talent pool. Over the past year T Rowe Price has struggled to hire women to fill its growing team of software engineers, leading to a higher proportion of men in its overall employee population. T Rowe Price says its tech employee population is 17 per cent female, which is better than the proportion of women for the UK tech industry, which stands at only 16 per cent. Only 5 per cent of tech leadership positions are held by women, according to Women in Tech, a PwC UK research report. Sarah Sinclair, co-founder of consultancy Change Gap, says greater gender and racial diversity in tech teams would help to address perennial issues affecting the sector. Ms Sinclair says she has seen first hand how a 200-strong technology team dominated by men can have a “boys with toys” culture, where the focus is on “using the most amazing tools, regardless of whether it is best for the customer”. One of the recognised problems with implementing tech is that large sums often get spent on the latest technology, artificial intelligence or robotics and then disappointment follows the hype, says Ms Sinclair. 'By seeing more females in technology, other females will realise it is a career they can succeed in' Eimear Coffey, Fidelity Investments. To address these issues, firms know they need more “balance” in their teams and most aspire to have more women in senior technology roles, but they face an uphill struggle. Under-representation starts early. Women still account for a small minority in science, technology, engineering and maths, or Stem, courses at universities. Only 19 per cent of engineering and technology graduates were women in the UK in 2019. The figure was 19 per cent for computer science and 37 per cent for maths, according to research by Stem Women. Tom Lamb, director at recruitment consultancy Dartmouth Partners, says: “The shortage of female talent within the market is acute – all of our clients have a desire to hire diverse candidates. “Top tech and data innovation female professionals are in very high demand. At the more junior end, diversity is improving.” Efforts are being made to improve female talent, with asset managers running initiatives to offer opportunities to Stem undergraduates. Fidelity Investments says it has a big focus on attracting more women into Stem courses in further education and secondary schools. The firm has several initiatives in place working with local schools to share what a career in Stem is. This includes coding workshops and education partnerships. “Our intention is to make engineering more appealing to female students and demystify engineering careers,” says Eimear Coffey, vice-president for technology management at Fidelity Investments. Another example is BlackRock, which participates in inter-company careers events such as IT's Not Just for the Boys!, hosted by TargetJobs, and Scotland Stem Women. At a more senior level, BlackRock partners with Tech Returners, an organisation that works with female technologists who have previously had a career in technology but have taken a career break. The fund house sponsors female technologists to take part in an eight-week immersive course to acquire skills in the latest technologies, and engage with hiring managers and technologists at BlackRock. Despite numerous initiatives, there is still a perception problem in the industry. The shortage of women can make female Stem graduates feel that they will not fit in, says Ms Sinclair, who graduated in computer science. Ms Coffey adds: “It goes back to the old saying, ‘You can't be what you can't see'. “By seeing more females in technology, other females will realise it is a career they can succeed in.” As part of the recruitment process, firms should provide candidates with examples of top female talent that has joined the firm and progressed through exciting and interesting careers in tech and data innovation, says Mr Lamb. Bringing in experienced female tech professionals is important because they are “inspiring and demonstrate a path that more junior women can look to emulate”, says Mr Lamb. However, Ms Sinclair says the onus is also on women to “be brave” and “go for it”, rather than walking away because “it doesn't look friendly”. Meanwhile more openness and conversation about the challenges that women in tech face is needed, which would help to ensure men are not made out to be the problem, she says. T Rowe Price recently launched a Women in Technology initiative, which aims to better understand the challenges and opportunities for female technologists. The starting point is “understanding the experiences and perceptions encountered and held by women and men” in order to “create solutions [that] will meaningfully move the needle in terms of gender balance and inclusion”, says a spokesperson. When it comes to recruitment, Mr Lamb says asset managers should also stop pushing for candidates to disclose current remuneration, which seems to feed into the amount that is offered at the end of a process. “It is far more effective to benchmark a candidate, looking at skills and experience, behaviours, values and an individual's ability to develop, and then make offers accordingly,” says Mr Lamb. This approach will help asset managers to decrease the gender pay gap and compete for talent with firms in broader technology industries, which already take this approach, he says. Matt Weston, UK managing director at recruitment consultancy Robert Half, says it is also important that firms “systematically gather data on gender equality and racial equality, and stick to rigorous metrics to make sure that genuine progress is being made”. Companies that do this, rather than paying lip service to diversity and inclusion, have a distinct commercial advantage, he says.
As originally appears on Ignites Europe - Ignites Euope is a Financial Times service covering the asset management industry in Europe. Through a mix of original news stories and English-translated summaries from other publications, Ignites Europe provides subscribers with the latest information on retail, wholesale and institutional markets. You can access a free two week trial to their subscription service here.

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