Women making an investment impact

16 April 2024
Honner CEO Philippa Honner met Future IM/Pact founder Yolanda Beattie nearly 20 years ago when she was a client working at Macquarie Bank. The pair forged a firm friendship after Yolanda ran Honner for a year in 2010, allowing Philippa to take maternity leave. Today the friendship includes working together to support the drive for more women in front-line investment roles.


Future IM/Pact is an industry initiative aimed at attracting more diverse talent into the investment teams of fund managers and super funds – many of whom partner with the program to foster emerging female investment talent. 


Q: Yo – Congratulations. Future IM/Pact has been going for more than five years now and is stronger than ever! What was the initial impetus to set the business up? 

A: I was part of the investor working group of the 30% Club, which was formed to advocate for more women on boards. The asset owner and manager CEOs and CIOs around the table acknowledged the challenge of getting their largely all male teams to effectively challenge board chairs on the topic given they weren’t doing much about it themselves. That sparked my curiosity that led to me galvanising industry to research the issue, and that research led to industry supporting the creation of Future IM/Pact. 

Q: In my 25 years working with local and global asset managers, I can count my engagement with frontline women investors on one, maybe two, hands.. What progress have you seen since you first started talking with asset managers and superfunds about the lack of women on investment teams? 

A: There has been significant progress in attracting more women at the grassroots level and a determined commitment from many leaders to recruit senior women too. Because there are still relatively few women in those senior roles, one fund’s gain is another fund’s loss with all fundies fishing from the same shallow pool. Our original research found women are 50% more likely than men to leave at the senior analyst level and up to 30% less likely to be promoted. That’s why more effort is needed to support, develop and promote women through the pipeline.

Q: You worked at WGEA as well as Mercer prior to establishing Future IM/Pact – how do the recent WGEA stats on the gender pay gap in Australia reflect on our investment and super sector? 

A: Published gender pay gaps reflect the power gap in organisations where men dominate the highest paying jobs and women are more concentrated in lower paying roles. Addressing these pay gaps require funds to evolve their cultures and practices so that more women can thrive in jobs they love as their family responsibilities and interests evolve. I’m happy to say the policies today are now best practice. The change must now come from every single portfolio manager and people leader connecting with the individual needs of women in their teams and asking what support they need to manage these competing interests, while helping them chart a path to more senior, decision-making roles. 

Q: You have some new research coming out soon that tracks gender composition and talent mobility within Australian investment teams – can you give us some hints on trends you are seeing? 

A: Our Gender Data Report, run in conjunction with Mercer, updates the foundationalresearch I ran when working at Mercer in 2017 which tracks composition, appointment, promotion and exit rates of women and men across 9 levels, broken down by organisation and role type. This granularity reveals where women are thriving across the industry and what pockets remain heavily male dominated.

We’re still collecting the workforce data so I don’t have full visibility yet – but I have completed about a dozen qualitative interviews and can say the super funds are doing the heavy lifting to create cultures where women feel equally valued and heard. Asset managers have world-best practices, and the embrace of flexibility/hybrid working has been a game changer – however the more hypermasculine culture in these teams is a turnoff for women who feel they have to fight so much harder than their male peers for recognition.

Q: What’s the biggest hurdle investment teams talk about when it comes to hiring more women? 

A: Finding them. Or more specifically, convincing them to leave their current employer. That takes more effort and a commitment to build a culture where women can see themselves being supported and challenged in all the good ways.

Q: As we both know – there are lots of smart and decent people in investment management who want to build diverse investment teams that deliver the best outcomes. What is your advice to those team leaders looking to improve diversity? 

A: It really comes down to a bespoke approach to every single hire and every single team member. And that doesn’t just apply to women – it’s relevant to men too, especially if you want to hire men who are different from your current crop of talent. That’s because this is a human issue more than it is a women’s issue. 

I encourage leaders to deeply connect with how they need to change and evolve to bring out the best in others, knowing that we all show up in ways that inhibit others fulfilling their potential, often unconsciously. Doing the work to discover and shift these blind spots is essential for building the curiosity, humility and humanity that great leaders are made of. 

Future IM/Pact is a pro-bono client of Honner. For more information go to Future IM/Pact.


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