Wondering through a never-ending desert of last season's Hermes ties at a conference in Miami a few months ago, I stumbled across a Chanel shaped oasis, “finally another woman” I excitedly remarked.
The woman looked confused, and possibly a little alarmed, “I’m just waiting for my husband”.
Approximately 9 per cent of investment managers in the UK are women.
To those with an absolute return mentality, this might seem poor, but if you are more interested in relative returns, things look dramatically worse – women represent around 48 per cent of accountants and 45 per cent of doctors.
I firmly believe in the best person for the job.
But in order to get the best person, we need to increase the pool in the first place, to create a diverse interest in our industry from an early stage.
Have you ever heard a little girl say: “Mummy when I grow up, I’d like to be a hedge fund manager”?
We absolutely should be encouraging young women in society to dream in this way, because investment management is a dream career.
Part of the reason they do not comes down to a prosaic lack of awareness. Even when I started out as a corporate lawyer, funds were a mystery to me.
A number of inspiring career-outreach projects like Investment 20/20 and The Social Mobility Foundation are working hard to help promote diversity, but there is a crying necessity to do more: more education, more mentoring and perhaps most crucially of all, some major re-branding.
Perception precedes reality. The perception that investment management is, “mathsy”, “for guys”, “unethical” and that “I wouldn’t fit in” (all things that young women have said to me) need to change in order for our industry to evolve.
But there is little point in increasing the size of the funnel if there are perforations down the line.
Attracting bright young women is one thing. Retaining them is quite another.
Smart (or flexible) working is a significant part of that. With the ever advancing developments in technology, we really can have it all.
Firms are slowly beginning to broach the subject, but there is a long way to go.
If we do not prioritise our thinking on this – if we do not take responsibility for promoting smart working and breaking down the cultural barriers around it - we will continue to lose some of the best and most diverse talent.
Progress is being made, but I still hear stories which astound me.
Just in the last month I had coffee with a woman who is being pushed out of a firm after her maternity leave, and I sat next to another woman at a dinner party who told me that when she started as an analyst (in a previously all-male team) at a private equity firm, a senior woman in the firm assumed that she was the admin assistant.