Can gender stereotypes limit opportunities for both sexes
Monday 7 March 2016
Can gender stereotypes limit opportunities for both sexes?
By Emma Agyemang
Anne Richards, outgoing global chief investment officer at Aberdeen Asset Manager, gave a talk to CFA UK members on why mixed teams make better decisions, last week. At the event, which was hosted by Nomura, she drew upon recent research to argue that diverse teams perform better than homogenous ones.
Ms Richards, who will shortly be joining M&G Investments as its first female chief executive, also discussed the negative impact gender myths have in the workplace, saying they affect both women and men.
“We are challenging thousands of years of societal conditioning. I really do not see this as a battle of the sexes,” she explained.
Continuing in this inclusive tone Ms Richards said she was pleased by the number of men in the audience and thanked CFA UK for raising awareness of gender parity in the investment profession.
In an interview before the event she elaborated on how gender stereotypes can limit opportunities for both sexes.
“[Gender myths] have certainly limited female progression in the workplace. In particular, myths about female leadership, female leadership skills and female confidence,” she said.
“I’ve worked with some fantastically empathetic, non-alpha men just as I’ve worked with some very high achieving, powerful, emphatic women. Stereotypes affect both in different ways.
“I think one of the things we need to do as we debate this subject is realise what we are talking about is not just giving more choice and more opportunity for women, it’s also about giving more choice and more opportunity for men.”
Ms Richards believes firms can combat the negative effect of stereotyping through objective processes and a senior management team which champions diversity and inclusion.
“The words, the behaviours at the top really matter. But you can’t just have nice words,” she said.
“You need really hard evidence-based processes that follow through the tone that is set at the top and they have to touch each stage of the process: recruitment, annual appraisals, how do you promote people, how do you pay people and can you actually evidence that you are being truly objective.”
However she said there is one approach which she doesn’t have much time for.
“I’m not a great believer in the whole industry that’s grown up around fixing women, to make them more board ready or whatever. Speak louder, speak softer, dress louder, dress more soberly, whatever it might be,” she said.
“There are lots of different sorts of women. They behave in different ways and those ways will be appropriate for some businesses and not so for other businesses and that’s true for the blokes as well. So, let’s focus on the system, women are just fine.”
CFA UK's Women's Network currently has more than 500 members. It offers practical advice and networking opportunities to female investment professionals and advises firms on how they can improve their gender balance.