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

Men, This Is How to Become True Advocates for Women




Originally published on LinkedIn Influencers on February 27, 2015

On the front page of yesterday’s New York Time’s Business Section was an article called “Vivek Wadhwa, Voice for Women in Silicon Valley, Is Foiled by His Tone” by Farhad Manjoo, and needless to say, the headline caught my attention. It also raised immediate concern. The fact that there was a male voice for women in Silicon Valley? Awesome. He was foiled? Decidedly less awesome. Particularly because I have been waiting for a headline like this for forever. Not the foiled part, of course, but the part about male voices standing up for gender bias. I’ve dreamed of the day when I open the newspaper and find headlines proclaiming that male CEOs are standing with women en masse as allies to fight the gender biases that are pervasive in nearly every sector of industry. If this voice was foiled, how much longer am I going to have to wait for those headlines? I read on.

The opening line states that, “Silicon Valley has lately come to the realization that it is not the meritocracy it has long pretended to be — at least not for women and most minorities.” So true. As a woman who was once a senior professional in the financial services industry, the “myth of the meritocracy” is something I have spoke about and written on a lot. You just have to look at the numbers in both sectors to know that this is fact. I continued to read.

The article immediately posits this question: “What should we make of the fact that one of the most out-spoken voices for women in tech has been — rather oddly – a man?” I think you should make two things out of it. One, isn’t it interesting that we live in a world where men’s views, even those on women, are generally held in higher regard than women’s views? Too often, credibility is simply assumed of men, while women not only have to earn credibility, but continuously justify it. This could explain how his voice is considered so important, when there are many outspoken women who continue to champion diversity in Silicon Valley. Secondly, why is it that in an industry where the overwhelming majority of the leaders are men, so few are willing to take a stand against gender bias? Most likely because of the issues brought up in this article, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The article goes on to identify the foiled man as Vivek Wadhwa, and although I have never heard of him, on the surface, it would appear that he has tried to be an advocate for women in tech. However, the article continues with this: “Men who would like to become allies in the fight for women’s equality in tech will find in this story a lesson on how to conduct themselves: Look at the way Mr. Wadhwa behaved when faced with criticism from female technologists. Then do the opposite.” Ouch. According to the article, Mr. Wadhwa’s reported transgressions include clumsily articulating women’s causes, calling women in tech “token floozies”, refusing to be held accountable for his stupid comments and blaming them on his poor English and lack of understanding of “web slang” instead, positioning himself as an expert on women in tech when he is not a woman in tech, and telling women that all they need to do to survive in tech is to act more confident, despite studies that show the detrimental effect this has on women’s careers. All of these items would definitely be on my list of what not to do as an advocate for women’s causes. Unfortunately, the article spends little time examining what he may have done right or what he could have done better, and without research on my part to read any of the dozens of articles and op-eds he has written or listen to the many interviews he has given, I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that his heart was in the right place.

Unfortunately, it would seem that Mr. Wadhwa has called it quits on his campaign for more diversity in Silicon Valley, in part because of the criticism he has received from feminists in the industry. Criticisms that if the above list is any indication, were well deserved. However, instead of listening to the criticism, learning from it, reaching out to women leaders in an effort to be better in his campaign, and adjusting his approach, he’s simply walking away, claiming that he’s “not needed anymore.” Apparently, when it comes to gender equality in Silicon Valley, Mr. Wadhwa adheres to the “my way or the highway” approach, which is certainly not conducive to achieving any form of long lasting change on any issue. We all have to be willing to listen to each other, to hear all of the unique voices at play, and be willing to learn from them. I don’t have all the answers for how to solve Silicon Valley’s diversity problem, nor does Mr. Wadhwa, but if we all work together, we just might have a chance.

Looking at the bigger picture, I deeply worry that by highlighting Mr. Wadhwa’s story in the way it was done, the message to any man waiting in the wings to help champion women is, “Don’t go there!” People, ladies, we need men to go there. We need to encourage and support males leaders to come forward to help uncover the inequities that exist not just in the tech world but everywhere, and we need everyone’s help to work to find solutions that will level the playing field. So while we absolutely have the right to respectfully criticize statements/voices that don’t help our cause, our efforts should be centered on helping men to be better as allies, and hopefully, unlike Mr. Wadhwa, they will be receptive to listen.

So what does that help look like? The leading researcher on the topic of engaging men is Catalyst, a leading nonprofit organization with the mission to expand opportunities for women and business. When I searched “engaging men”, there were 47 reports and tools that popped up. I have included a “list of actions men can take” below from their tool, First Steps to Engaging Men. I also invite you to check out the organization Men Advocating Real Change (MARC), a community created especially for men committed to making real change in the workplace.

So men. If you are genuinely interested in helping to create a more inclusive work environment for you, for your female friends and colleagues, for your mothers, and for your daughters, please engage. Below are some tips to get you started. And please tell us what we can do to be champions for you.

  1. Listen to women colleagues when they attribute certain work experiences to sexism without being defensive, offering alternative explanations, or otherwise invalidating what they say.
  2. Pay attention to the subtle ways in which some men may unconsciously cause women colleagues to feel diminished. Avoid these behaviors, and encourage male peers to do so as well.
  3. Be attentive to whether and how men and women colleagues are judged by different standards. Speak up if you observe gender bias.
  4. Use work-life flexibility benefits, if you have them (e.g., paternity leave, family leave, and telecommuting), to manage your work and personal responsibilities, and communicate your support for male colleagues who use these policies/benefits.
  5. Don’t interrupt women when they speak, control their space, or assume they need your protection. Focus on the effect of your actions, rather than on the intent.
  6. Be the kind of father you always wanted to have.
  7. Listen, believe, and be accountable to women and their stories. When confronted about your own sexism (or racism, homophobia, etc.), listen instead of getting defensive.
  8. Don’t condone, laugh at, or tell sexist, racist, or homophobic jokes or stories.

A few selected reports from Catalyst and other sources:

  1. Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: Stacking the Deck for Success (Catalyst)
  2. Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need to Know (Catalyst)
  3. Moving Mindsets on Gender Diversity: McKinsey Global Survey Results
  4. Bringing Men on Board with Gender Equality (Business Digest)

If you are looking for other organizations that convene male champions of women’s rights and gender issues, please visit the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, MenEngage, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Men Stopping Violence, Oxfam GB’s Gender Equality and Men Project, EuroPRO-Fem, Fostering Caring Masculinities (FOCUS), and Men For Change.

Finally, please consider attending a conference, coming soon in New York City, on men and masculinity, running March 5-8th. Details can be found here.

Jimmy Carter is ALL IN FOR HER

Jimmy Carter's "A Call to Action" Book Signing at Barnes & Noble in New York City on March 25, 2014

Originally published on LinkedIn Influencers on September 19, 2014

Last night marked the official launch of ALL IN FOR HER, a Call to Action and research report that is being released by Women Moving Millions (WMM) to kick off our annual summit in New York City. (I serve as the Chief Engagement Officer of WMM.) In it, we describe the current state of women’s wealth and the ways in which women are serving as leaders in philanthropy and as change agents in their communities. Our Call to Action is for everyone, but in particular women of means, to commit to going ALL IN FOR HER, by using every available resource at their disposal to help advance women and girls worldwide.

To open the launch event, we were honored to have former US President, Jimmy Carter, provide the opening remarks, the transcript of which is as follows:

“Hello and welcome. Thank you all for joining us this exciting evening as Women Moving Millions launches their Call to Action: ‘All In For Her’ inviting women (and men) to step into their donor leadership and catalyze unprecedented resources for women and girls around the world.

I am pleased to be addressing so many leading supporters of women and girls tonight. As you all know, there’s much work to be done when it comes to women’s rights. Too many women and girls face discrimination and extreme violence every day simply because of their gender. Many are still being forced into child marriages and sexual slavery. They suffer from domestic abuse, female genital cutting, and even in the most developed nations, are barred equal and vital access to the education, healthcare, political and social empowerment that allows them not only to survive, but to thrive.

Gender inequality is destructive to our global development, and as I’ve written in my latest book, A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power, unless we address the roles each of these issues play in perpetuating global gender injustice, women, girls, men, and boys the world over will remain barred from reaching their true potential. It is time we shift the frameworks in which we measure the value of women and girls, and reinterpret their roles across all cultures and all religions. In this process, we must also include women and girls in these conversations about change. There is an epidemic of violence and injustice against women that spans the globe, and until we urgently address all the factors that breed inequality, our global progress will remain at a standstill.

I sincerely hope that you will all embrace this Call to Action tonight with all your passion, purpose, and urgency. In my book, I wrote about the power of female leadership around the world to address issues of gender inequality in each of their countries. As leaders in women’s philanthropy, this is now your time to use your resources in order to change the future not only for half the world’s population but the world over. We’ve seen the evidence, and we’ve read the stories. We know that providing funding to women and girls works, and tonight we have the perfect opportunity with Women Moving Millions’ ‘All in For Her’ campaign to bridge the need of women and girls on the ground with our power and potential for impact.

Thank you for inviting me to share this important moment and celebration with you. Women Moving Millions is a truly special community who have stepped up to prioritize gender equality, and I am proud to support this urgent cause to advance global development.

It’s time to go ‘All In For Her.’”

Watch the video here!


President Jimmy Carter is no stranger to Calls to Action, as he has been a tireless advocate for the rights and advancement of women and girls for decades. Earlier this year, he released his own Call to Action, titled Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, in which he states that, “The most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls.” I could not agree more.

In the book, President Carter makes the case that the widespread discrimination that every nation in this world practices towards women and girls is one of the most critical human crises facing our world today, and that it is time for this discrimination to end. However you may feel about President Carter’s time as the US President, it is hard to deny that in the 33 years since he left office, he has been a steadfast promoter of peace, and a dedicated supporter of human rights, democracy, conflict resolution, and worldwide health. In 2002, President Carter was deservedly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and since its inception in 1982, President Carter and The Carter Center has tirelessly advocated against the growing worldwide wealth disparity, has been instrumental in negotiating peaceful resolutions to numerous international conflicts, and has implemented numerous world health initiatives, including the near eradication of the Guinea worm disease.

In addition to his philanthropic works, President Carter is a prolific author with over two dozen books in publication on topics ranging from his time as a US President to the peace process in the Middle East. Women, Religion, Violence, and Power is his most recent book, and while its contents are dire, its implications are incredible. How fantastic that this man, this influential and powerful white man, is standing up and unequivocally stating that the disempowerment of women and girls is the underlying problem to nearly all of the issues our world faces today. From violence against women, rape, prostitution, and sex trafficking, to honor killings, domestic abuse, female genital cutting, and religious discrimination, there is no topic that President Carter shies away from, and while the stories are hard to read, it is gratifying that someone so visible is standing up in defense of women and girls and the rights that are currently being denied to them in every country in the world.

I wholeheartedly support President Carter’s Call to Action, and it was truly incredible to have his support for the launch of ours, as we share the same overarching goal. The next two days of the summit are going to be jam-packed with sessions, panels, and discussion, all revolving around the concept of power, and how we can use our power in positive ways. Speakers include Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, Pat Mitchell, Abigail Disney, Michael Kimmel, Demi Moore, Lisa Witter, and Malala Yousafzai, among others, and I can’t wait to hear what they all have to say. Last year’s summit literally kept me up at night processing all that I had heard and learned, and I have no doubt that this year will be any different. Stay tuned for updates.

The report is available on the #ALLINFORHER web-site. Link to other resources including 100 Facts on Girls and Women, and 100 BEST Reports.