Gender Equality: Celebrating Progress and Looking Ahead

In recognition of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Cady Johnson shares her perspective on gender equality in the financial services industry.

In recognition of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2020, we asked Cady Johnson, a senior vice president and divisional sales manager at PIMCO, to share her perspective on gender equality in our industry.

In the financial services industry, the topic of gender equality is multifaceted, encompassing not only our workforce, but also our business strategy and the way we partner with our clients. All of this must continue to evolve to meet the unique needs of the fastest-growing client segment – women investors.

Over the course of my career, I have seen our industry evolve toward a more gender-equal world. It’s a shift that has paralleled dramatic changes in the financial advice business. Historically, the industry was largely perceived as complex and primarily focused on asset allocation, product selection, and performance. While these factors still play an important role, technology has created tremendous efficiency, affording financial professionals more time to evolve their service models. Financial advisors today apply more robust creative thinking and intricate financial planning that is more purposeful, outcome-oriented, and “human.”

This deeper engagement is appealing to women and has been one of many factors in drawing them to the field. Recent data shows that about a third of financial advisors in the U.S. are female.i Still, women make up more than half the population and control more private wealth in the U.S. than men.ii As we embark on a new decade, how can we continue to advance toward the tipping point, define goals for the future, and avoid becoming complacent?

Building the pipeline

In recent years, the financial services industry has placed significant emphasis on attracting, retaining, and developing women employees and leaders. As a result, the industry in the U.S. has made strides in increasing women’s representation in executive committees (up to 16% from 9% in 2010), company boards (up to 25% from 12% in 2010),iii and the C-suite. However, the talent pipeline still thins substantially as we go up the ranks. Prioritizing diversity and inclusion initiatives, fostering mentorship programs, modifying sourcing of talent, and finding solutions for midcareer work-life conflicts have all made positive impacts, but deeper efforts are needed.

At PIMCO, we began our improvement process by asking one simple question: How can we attract more high-potential women to our organization? Examining the many different answers led us to a multiyear initiative with over 40 workstreams to embed diversity and mitigate bias in all aspects of our recruiting process. The Global Wealth Management team has benefitted from that. A few short years ago, our internal sales desk was less than one-third women. Today it is quickly approaching half, giving us a strong pipeline of female talent for positions in the field and eventually senior leadership roles.

Hard work ahead

While the successes toward gender equality in our industry should be celebrated, we have further to go. What lies ahead is tackling the more complex and challenging issues, such as cultural change and unconscious bias throughout organizations.

At PIMCO we have been able to utilize our research on women in investing to engage and educate financial professionals and investors, particularly at industry events. While women spearheaded this effort, our male colleagues have joined in. This collaboration has been powerful, and it is helping to move the narrative forward on a much larger scale – an extremely important factor for progress in the future.

Ultimately, it is the benefits of gender equality and inclusion that we are aiming for: better decision-making, corporate governance, customer connectivity, and positive brand association, with the industry helping fuel the talent pipeline. These goals are interdependent and self-perpetuating – and they are the future of our industry.

The Author

Cady Johnson

Divisional Sales Manager, U.S. Global Wealth Management

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