Women: The Next Emerging Industry

iStock_000017021125XSmallBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

What’s the next emerging industry? Women, according to the panelists at last week’s New York Women of ALPFA Summit held at Goldman Sachs.

In a discussion that spanned small businesses, emerging economies, sustainability, alternative investments, and more, the panelists explained how women are the key to unlocking greater economic growth.

Moderated by Theresa Torres, Director for Diversity and Employee Experience for Verizon Communications, the panel included Elizabeth I. Diep, CPA, Senior Manager at PwC; Erika Karp, MD and Head of Global Sector Research at UBS Investment Bank; Heather M. Kellett, Global Director of Operations at KPMG; Silvina Nunez, Senior Business Manager at JPMorgan Chase; and Maria Otero, Esq., Founder and President of the Women’s Venture Fund.

The Value of Women Leaders

Otero began, “Research on women shows some characteristics [about women] are universal. If you invest in women you see improvement in that community more rapidly than if you take a gender neutral approach.”

Investing in women has a multiplier effect, Otero explained. When women see other women leaders, they are encouraged to “dream big.”

In a discussion of sustainability, Karp explained that we are living in a time of unprecedented resource constraint. “Capital scarcity is not just financial, but human,” she said. “This is a huge opportunity.”

Karp mentioned an assertion made by Beth Brook, Global Vice Chairman at Ernst & Young. “She termed women as the worlds largest emerging market.”

“We can’t be responsible investors, economists, or strategists with out thinking about sustainability,” Karp said. And that means investing in women. “Yes, it is an economic imperative, but we need accountability at the highest levels.”

Unique Skills

And in today’s global marketplace, that mean’s understanding and working to improve the attraction and retention of women across cultures.

Nunez, who hails from Argentina, explained, “When you look at Latin America, due to cultural issues, it’s very male dominated.” She continued, “But I think the world is changing. I have seen notable improvement in the last ten years. I think organizations are supporting and giving women tools they didn’t have before.”

“I am starting to use those tools.”

In many cases, using those tools can lead to uncertainty. For example, Torres said, “Asking about flexible work arrangements can be a risk as well.”

But that’s no reason to avoid a job you love, even if traditionally there haven’t been many women in your field. Diep said, “I work in a very male dominated industry and we’re different and people like different. We’re very relationship-driven. We’re more collaborative.”

She continued, “You’re a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for.”

Karp agreed. “The ability to facilitate collaboration is a great talent and, I would suggest, is one of the most important skills of the leaders of the future,” she said.

“Women do seem a little better constructed to drive collaboration.”

This holds true in the entrepreneurial arena as well, Otero said. “Entrepreneurs have to be able to engage others so they can grow. Women understand how to do that and people who can collaborate build businesses faster.”