Gender Equality in Finance? Nope. But Times Are Changing.

BloombergOriginally published on LinkedIn influencers on June 17th, 2016.

It’s been three years since I had the honour of being invited to join the LinkedIn publishing platform as an Influencer, and since then I have written nearly 80 articles on a wide range of topics, including finance, philanthropy, the film industry, and job advice. If you have been a loyal reader of mine, you know that I have written about all of these topics through the perspective of a gender lens, and more specifically shining a light on women. My purpose in life is to help our world become more gender balanced, and that work will continue until we achieve gender parity across all industries and issue areas. Ambitious, yes, but it is my passion in life and I truly love my work.

Another passion of mine is the financial services industry, and I love it when these two passions, finance and women, converge. Like many industries, women’s representation in the top levels of the world’s largest and leading financial firms leaves much to be desired, and in November of 2014, I used one of LinkedIn’s monthly topics to imagine where my life would have taken me had I not left Goldman Sachs in 2002. I let my imagination run wild, and envisioned a world where I helped to create the world’s leading financial services firm for women. I then laid out seven ways a firm could actually achieve this, and I detailed the many ways that this could become a reality as opposed to my rainbow coloured fantasy. To my surprise and delight, this article became my most read post, a position it still holds to this day by a wide margin, and I’d like to think that people working within the financial industry read my post and took its message to heart. But did it work?

Technically, no, because 18 months later, we seem no closer to having a great woman lead a global financial firm, achieving 30% female representation on corporate boards and 50% representation in senior positions, or increasing the amount of hedge fund assets under management by women to double digits at the very least. But a lot has changed in that time, namely the awareness of the issue and the growing number of tools designed specifically to address it. From the Bank of Montreal’s Women in Leadership Fund to Barclay’s Women in Leadership Index, financial firms appear to finally be taking to heart the mountain of research that proves that investing in gender equality is not just the morally right thing to do, but is in fact a good business decision for both the company and its customers.

One of the most recent of these tools to be unveiled is the new Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index (BFGEI), which launched last month. The BFGEI operates as a measurement tool to determine how well companies treat their female employees, the policies in place to encourage a diverse set of people to succeed, and how well their products serve their female customers. This index encourages companies to be transparent with their data and workplace policies, and assigns a score based on their commitment to gender equality, with a 60 point score being the threshold to secure a positive rating on this issue. At the time of its May 3rd launch, 26 firms worldwide have achieved this rating, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Bank of Montreal, HSBC, and Credit Suisse, although it should be noted that participation in this index was voluntary, and therefore a firm’s exclusion on the list at this point should not be meant to imply they have not passed the rating. That said, if they choose not to be involved in this process, one has to wonder why?

In fact, given the fact that this index is at present a voluntary measure, its effectiveness in promoting change has been questioned, but not by me. All I see from this development is that companies are finally waking up to the idea that investors want more from their financial firms than simply profits. Impact investing, the practice of investing in a manner that promotes social good, is not just the investment fad of the week. It is a growing movement that will only grow bigger with each passing year. Investors are voting for social change with their investing dollars, and more and more they have the tools to make informed decisions about where to invest their money.

I have always advocated that our money, whether it is invested, donated, or used to buy a tank of gas; our money is one of the greatest untapped potential for enacting social change, but without the tools to know which companies are deserving of our dollars, it will remain just that. Untapped potential. But not anymore. The Buy Up Index helps shoppers reward companies that make gender equality a priority in their operations, and just this week research group Ledbetter launched a Gender Equality Index and interactive tool. With this tool you can see a company’s gender ratio on its board and leadership team. A winner is Kering Group (Gucci) with 64% women on its board and 36% on their leadership team. A loser? Coty, which has no women on its board or leadership teams. None. Additionally organizations such the Global Fund for Women and the Women’s Funding Network help donors direct their giving dollars to nonprofit organizations that directly advance women and girls. Now, tools such as the BFGEI are helping investors to do the same. With all of these amazing resources at our disposal, I’m confident that the only direction we’re heading is forward, with true gender equality not far ahead on the horizon.

Are there companies that you support because they are aligned with your values? TWEET to #shopyourvalues

Best Advice: Invest in Relationships in All Directions

This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share the best advice they’ve ever received. Read all the posts here. Originally posted on LinkedIn Influencers on February 24, 2014.

I spent 14 years as a professional at Goldman Sachs. I was hired as an analyst, then became a trader, then a desk manager, and in 1996 I became the youngest woman and first female trader to be made a partner of the firm. Over those years I had the good fortune of receiving some great career advice, but the most useful advice did not come from a person, but instead came from a process: Goldman’s partner selection process.

In 2000, I left my trading seat to take a position in the Executive Office where my job was to help manage the careers of the firm’s managing director population. I was very involved in many human capital management programs, including succession planning, lateral hiring, performance measurement, compensation, leadership development, diversity and partner selection. The selection process was very robust, and it involved names being put forward to be cross-reviewed. There was a team of senior executives who had the responsibility to discuss the candidate with a variety of people with whom that candidate worked, whether it be directly, indirectly, or sometimes distantly. These people included senior managers, peers within and outside of their direct work area and people who worked for that candidate. These conversations were meant to enhance what could be found from the performance review process and the direct manager recommendation. Here is where the lesson comes in.

It really matters that you have quality, 360-degree relationships. It really matters that you not just manage up or just manage down, but that you invest in relationships in all directions. This is not about being ‘liked’, but rather it is about being perceived as helpful and a team player. Perhaps this is best illustrated with an example, and in particular, an example of the perfect partner candidate for Goldman Sachs.

In my experience from over a decade ago, the perfect candidate was first and foremost great at his or her job, whatever job that may be. This person managed their team well, was reliable, had a high level of responsibility, executed against stated goals and objectives, retained staff, was a good communicator, created and fostered a place where talented people would want to work, made money for the firm, owned up to their mistakes, was a visionary…all of the usual stuff. Those were generally the minimum requirements to be considered for a partnership. The bonus points were awarded if the candidate helped people when it did not directly help him or her, were involved in recruiting efforts, mentored young people, were generally a ‘hands-up’ kind of person, and the OVERALL impression of that person was good. The perfect candidate was not just thinking of his or her business, career, manager, or direct reports, but was concerned with the bigger picture as well.

This goes even deeper. As a professional, you need to care about every single contact point you have with every single person, both internal and external. Whether that person is an intern who is only there for the summer, someone from another department who needs help with something that may be out of your day-to-day responsibility but you could help nevertheless, or a client who said no to you today but may say yes in the future, you have to care about your interactions with everyone. This may sound like a lot of work, and especially work you don’t have time for if you want to succeed in your role, but over time, it will matter.

In my experience with the partner selection process, I saw candidates’ promotions accelerated for being a well-rounded employee, and penalized for not being one. I saw the managers of said candidates being shocked when their person was not given the nod, because when people in other departments were called, they described that person as ‘not willing to help’ and ‘self-promotional’.

Does this mean that every partner fit this perfect profile? Of course not, but your chances of becoming a partner were a lot higher if you did. You might be thinking that your firm does not have such a robust process, and therefore this is not relevant advice, but I am suggesting that no matter what the process at your place of work might be, take care to always be as friendly, as positive, and as helpful as you can possibly be. I call this taking a 360 perspective.

Take a moment to reflect on your own career. If today someone were to call every person you have had professional interactions with, what would they say? What would they say was your biggest weakness? Would they describe you as a ‘go-to’ person at your place of work? Would key people even know you and know of your contributions? While first and foremost you need to be good at your job, being attentive to the bigger picture certainly will not hurt, and when it comes to that big promotion, it may well be the deciding factor.

Photo: Mykhaylo Palinchak/Shutterstock

Global Women’s Leadership Summit – Join Me

jacki_zehner1 I am excited to be presenting this year at The Global Women’s Leadership Summit (GWALS) which kicked off on October 14th. In my session, which will be live online on October 29th, I will be talking about the advancement of women and girls. I am going to share my personal story on why this is so important to me and tie it into how I got where I am today as CEO of Women Moving Millions, who’s mission is to mobilize unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls.You’ll have to sign up and register to hear more!

The summit continues through November 1st with two weeks of amazing presentations and talks given by industry leaders, thought leaders, authors, (lets just say there is no shortage of successful, qualified and passionate people presenting at this summit.) But what is GWALS? The Global Women’s Leadership Summit’s mission is to “advance women globally by connecting you to the top women experts for education networking and community. We have the bold mission of advancing the financial prosperity and leadership capability of 5 million women by the year 2020.” Love it!

What makes GWALS so unique is the entire summit is webinar based. With everyone living such busy lives today its hard to find 3 or 4 days to attend these big events, not to mention expensive! GWALS is bring the top experts to you by taping each session and making them available online exclusively to summit participants.  On your personal portal you can catch up on any sessions missed and review sessions you’ve already seen. No travel, no hassle and unbelievable resources are just a click away. See below for a list of other people that are presenting at the Summit. It is not too late to sign up so  Click here to register and check out all the presentations that have taken place over the last three weeks!

Click here for the full summit agenda . Speakers include:

* Cherie Blair – Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
* Marianne Williamson – NY times #1 bestselling author, spiritual teacher and international speaker
* Betsy Myers – Leadership Expert. Former COO, Obama for President; Sr. Adviser to President Clinton
* Riane Eisler – JD, Named one of the Great Peace Leaders with Gandhi, Dalai Lama.
* Meera Sanyal – Chairperson Royal Bank of Scotland  India.
* Joanna Barsh- McKinsey & Company Director Emeritus, Centred Leadership Project
* John Gray – Ph.D. Best-selling relationship author of all time, communication expert
* Gina Bianchini- Founder & CEO at Mighty Bell, Co-founder Lean In
* Janice Ellig- Named by Business Week, “The World’s Most influential Headhunters”
* John Gerzema – New York Times Best Selling Author, author of the Athena doctrine
* Shelly Porges – Head U.S State Dept. Global Entrepreneur Program, Former Finance Co-chair Hillary Clinton PAC.
* Sally Helgesen – Internationally acclaimed Author, Speaker and Leadership consultant.
* Maya Hu-Chan – Rated Asia’s top Leadership Expert