InvestmentEurope discusses the gender pay gap and #MeToo with Fondsfrauen cofounders Anne Connelly, founder of hermoney.de, Anke Dembowski, journalist for Fonds Professionell and Institutional Money, and Manuela Fröhlich, global head of business development at LRI Group.
Your network has existed for three years. What have been your key successes
Connelly: Our most important success is that we have managed to increase awareness. We are now in a position where asset managers actively address us and are looking to start a dialogue and offer to support this movement. And not only in Germany, but also in Switzerland and in 2018 also in Austria.
Fröhlich: Three years ago, we were mocked as” ladies group”, by now we have increasingly positioned ourselves as an institution, offering events, conducting surveys , offering mentoring. So now we are regularly approached by firms that are interested in backing us and our events.
We have also expanded our visibility among women in the industry. And the topics we present and discussions we offer them with more senior women make the younger ones understand, there is still a long way to go. But we are here to help and motivate!
Dembowski: We still have a long way to go. For example, how is it possible that only 6.6% of fund managers in Germany are female? One of the key challenges for women continues to be the entering back into the workforce after having had children. Many women find that men have simply overtaken them in that time. One case in question is BlackRock. While they don’t have problems attracting women to entry level positions, they really struggle with low retention rates.
Connelly: Many asset managers continue to have a very male-dominated business culture. We are in some ways an exception, rather than the rule. In order to be successful as a woman in the fund industry, you will need a strong stomach: no pain; no gain. A lot of talented and intelligent women leave the industry because they are not able to deal with the male-dominated culture.
Dembowski: Another problem is that some of the few women that do succeed close the door behind them, rather than helping to lift other women up. This is something we discussed at our event, we think this attitude is so yesterday, we hope to challenge that by highlighting how women can benefit from working together.
What are your thoughts on the #MeToo movement?
Dembowski: While topics such as sexual harassment are not directly within the remit of our organisation there are of course a lot of informal discussions and younger members sharing experiences and asking us for advice. These days women are often approached on social media and it can lead to challenging situations, particularly if there is a hierarchical relationship involved, for example with women on the sell side being pressured by investors. In these situations we aim to encourage women to stand their ground.
What strategies are vital in tackling the gender pay gap:
Dembowski: A recent study which Mannheim University conducted on our behalf reveals that women tend to have lesser expectations, with only 6% of women negotiating their pay while most men do.
Transparency is key to addressing this problem, the information on different salaries should be publicly available. We also think headhunters have a role to play in helping to achieve equal pay rates. Because their bonus is based on the salaries of employees they refer, they should have a strong incentive to do so.
Connelly: Ultimately, the employer also has a level of responsibility to ensure equal pay for the same qualification. It is simply no longer acceptable to hire a man for 60k and a woman doing the same job for 50k. This is part and parcel of having an ESG strategy, otherwise the employer risks reputational damage, as the case of the BBC highlights. This is also why we have a growing number of HR people showing interest in our network and attending our events.
What are your plans as a network going forward?
Connelly: Our next step will be to expand the network even more internationally. Additionally to Germany, Switzerland and Austria our next big roll out will be Luxemburg.
Fröhlich: Therefore we will offer an English website, so we can appeal and connect a to a more international crowd and co-operate with many existing womens’ networks out there, especially in the UK.
Dembowski: Gender equality is of course an issue that is increasingly discussed on an international level, a good example is the prominence the topic had at the recent Davos summit.