Last week, like many times before, Panama-based financial advisor Karen García led a meeting about investment opportunities and market perspectives. The only woman in the room, she presented to 16 men, including her boss and a group of clients.
‘Well, of course, that’s intimidating, but it is what you do every day,’ said García (pictured below), who works at Panamanian brokerage SweetWater Securities.
García entered the investment industry in 2007 and described her experience as a woman in the field as ‘very good.’ The meeting she recently led embodies the experience of other female fund selectors who spoke to Citywire Americas - they have not faced major obstacles in the industry because of their gender but are often one of the few women in the room, particularly if they are in the top echelons of the industry.
'It’s a matter of taboos. Movies and society have imposed it in that way, saying that Wall Street is a place for suits and ties. Those are taboos, at the end of the day,’ she said.
Like García, Gabriela Andrade looked past the taboos and is now deputy investments director at Mexican wealth manager Columbus. She has been in the investment industry for roughly 18 years.
‘I can’t complain about my experience in the company where I work, especially considering the industry and the country where I live.’ Andrade said. ‘However, I should say some sexist attitudes prevail in the industry in general, especially among older individuals.’
Sexism often prevents women from entering or staying in the investments industry. Luckily, there’s an increasingly popular investment approach that could combat these misconceptions. Andrade pointed to the implementation of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment strategies as a ‘big step’ for women.
‘[ESG] helps you establish a mindset for investors and within your own firms that acts as a catalyst for institutional change toward more inclusion,’ she said.
Male colleagues can help combat these misconceptions, too. In Andrade’s perspective, the biggest opportunity for men to make a difference lies in simply taking women more seriously.
‘Although they trust our work and sometimes depend on it, sometimes they set aside our opinions or suggestions when it comes to themes of major significance,’ Andrade (pictured below) added.
In terms of leadership, Bancolombia fund and portfolio specialist Paula Yepes Henao said the top jobs in the industry often go to men because of women’s perceived emotional tendencies, or because women’s role at home doesn’t allow them to dedicate more time to their careers.
However, the changing image of what a good leader looks like can boost women’s status, she suggested.
‘Leadership styles in the 21st century are more focused on leaders who have the ability to inspire their team, who are more efficient with managing their time and with balanced lifestyles that promote a healthy workforce,’ said Yepes Henao.
She added that, in general, more women have entered the field not just in sales roles but also in more quantitative jobs.
It’s a matter of taboos. Movies and society have imposed it in that way, saying that Wall Street is a place for suits and ties.
Looking back at their own careers, the fund selectors who spoke at Citywire Americas offered an unequivocal piece of advice to young women looking to enter the field: charge ahead.
A business development manager at Chilean investment firm Vision, Javiera Prado, said: ‘I think the most important thing is knowing what you want, what you want to achieve and to take advantage of every opportunity on your path, always working with the utmost dedication and excellence standards in everything you do,’ she said. ‘This is valid for both men and women.’