Responsible Investing Provides Careers for Women

Finding Real Opportunities to Succeed
Nov 18, 2015 9:05 AM ET

by Nancy Reyes, Founder & CEO of RI Strategy Consulting (and formerly with Parnassus Investments)

I recently attended the PRI in Person conference on the Principles for Responsible Investment held in London last September and came away quite impressed. While I came away with plenty of new information to digest, and more than a bit overwhelmed, the reoccurring theme that stood out was not the title of any specific session, it was the number of women in attendance at the conference — 40 percent of the delegates and 35 percent of the speakers were females. Compared to financial service industry events such as Schwab IMPACT, the Morningstar Investment Conference, IMCA, FPA and NAPFA conferences, events focused on responsible investing continue to have a much higher female participation rate. Another example of this is the upcoming SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing, which has historically had a ratio of females to males that is close to 50-50. This year I’ve been informed that they have more women on the agenda than ever before. I thought to share this observation because it highlights two trends that are beneficial to the investment industry.

The first trend is that responsible investing is attracting females in greater numbers than have historically been represented by the financial services industry. The same job titles and responsibilities that come with traditional finance jobs are available in the field of responsible investing (securities analysts, fund managers, commercial and private bankers, investment advisors, financial planners, consultants, marketers), so why is it that responsible investing has a greater number of women represented within its ranks?

One reason is that the mentality that created responsible investment companies, which file shareholder resolutions, educate the public, and work with nonprofits, is more supportive of promoting women in the workforce. A key to long-term career success is staying power, so an industry that is especially supportive of working mothers will facilitate their success in that industry. The Financial Women of San Francisco has long recognized the importance for women in finance to network with other accomplished women and to be recognized for their achievements.

In case you missed it, Joe Keefe, President and CEO of Pax World, was honored in mid-September by the Financial Times with his inclusion on their published list of “top feminist men.” These men are recognized for helping women succeed in business and beyond. A peer of his, Jerome Dodson, President of Parnassus Investments and Portfolio Manager of the Parnassus Endeavor Fund, has long touted the benefits of investing in companies that are good places to work for women, referencing Working Mother magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies as a source of ideas for new investments. Notable features of the 100 companies on Working Mother’s 2015 list is that they provide new moms with an average of eight weeks of fully paid maternity leave, three quarters of their employees use flextime, and almost half of all new hires last year were women.

Another reason is that self-selection may lower the number of men who are traditionally drawn to finance to be drawn to a career in responsible investing. A field that is dedicated to building a sustainable and equitable global economy appeals to those interested in making the world a better place, and while that’s by no means the sole interest of women, the values orientation can seem too “soft” for someone who fits the Wall Street stereotype. To expand the conversation of investing beyond the sole focus of providing the best returns runs counter to tradition. Those dedicated to responsible investing are comfortable with being untraditional.

Read Nancy's complete article at- 

Cliff Feigenbaum, founder and managing editor
GreenMoney Journal and
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