By Liz O’Donnell (Boston)
If you’re paying attention, then you know that women are good for business. Even outside of women-focused news outlets like ours, people are finally talking about the positive link between women in leadership and bottom line results. Just last week, the Clinton Global Initiative held a programming track at its annual meeting, called Investing in Girls and Women. There was a special topic dinner held one night during the meeting to celebrate people committed to addressing the challenges and accomplishments of women around the globe. The participants included: Sarah Brown, Wife of Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of State and Muhammad Yunus, Founder and Managing Director, Grameen Bank. A plenary session on gender inequality featured speakers including: Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs and Robert B. Zoellick, President, The World Bank. So why, if awareness is raised, if the data exists, if heavy hitters like the ones mentioned above are discussing the issue, why are there still so few women at the top?
A case in point is the FN100, a list published by Financial News, of the 100 most influential people in the European finance market. There are six women on the list this year, double the number from the previous year. Four of the women are from the asset management industry: Karen Jones, pensions director at Aviva’s staff pension scheme; Elizabeth Corley, chief executive of Allianz Global Investors; Anne Healy, managing director, UK and Ireland, MFS Investment Management; and Angela Docherty, senior corporate investment consultant, Unilever.
Financial News, to its credit, also publishes the FN100 Women, a list of the 100 most influential women in the European Financial market. On its website, FN says the list “shows that gender is less of a barrier to success than ever.” But how much progress have women in the financial sector truly made, if we still need a separate list? The FN 100 Women list includes 22 chief executives, 25 department heads, 33 partners and managing directors, plus presidents, chief financial officers, chief investment officers and chief operating officers.
What the two lists point to is the difference between leadership and influence. Financial News chooses the FN100 based on influence, leadership, performance, and “capacity to shape business and the industry.” Certainly Paula Allen, the head of Global Equities at Aviva, Elena Ambrosiadou, the CEO of hedge fund Ikos, and Henrietta Baldock, Managing Director and Head of European Financial Institutions for Merrill Lynch, can be cited for leadership and influence, so why don’t they make the overall list? Do women, even the most senior among them, still wield less influence? Or does it come down to management style?
Dr. Sasha Galbraith, a partner at Galbraith Management Consultants, Ltd. and a former Vice President of Wells Fargo Bank, says in the business world, women are still expected to act like men. “Either you have to be a she-man and act like one of the boys or you have to operate in a way that is uncomfortable for you.”
Says Sonia Trocmé-Le Page, Co-Founder and Partner of Paris-based Global Private Equity, “You are very right to raise the subject, at a time when you can’t open a paper or a magazine without reading that you should hire women to increase your profitability and when people say that they trust women more than men in finance today.
“I was, at the Annual Buyout Conference organized by Les Echos on June 3, the only woman out of 23 speakers. That was actually relayed in the press, who said ‘Is Private Equity really macho, or are people in this industry walking on the head?’
Last year, Trocme-Le Page was recognized as “one of the Top 40 most influential women in Private Equity” by Private Equity News. Lists like that one, and The FN100 Women list are great tools and serve as a reminders that there are many women at the top. However, until the word “women” is no longer an adjective, as in women bankers, women managers, women investors, women CEOS, women partners, we won’t have true parity.