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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Whamond

Women’s COO Club Panel Round Up: Achieving personal & professional development in fund management

The Women’s COO lunch panel hosted by With Intelligence and HFM Global explored the following theme: “Achieving personal & professional development in fund management”. Alternit One’s Co-Founder Carrie Whamond chaired the panel, with four other women from senior leadership roles in the Hedge Fund industry joining her. Panellists were invited to share their insights from their own experiences, exchange ideas and best practices, as well as celebrate female leadership.

Carrie recaps key insights from the lunch panel surrounding recruitment, mentorship, equity and goals.

  • Recruitment

There is no denying that there is a correlation between career development and the recruitment process. Successful businesses flourish if they have the right team around them. However, having the right team means investing in individuals and their growth.  The panel discussed the role of implicit and unconscious bias in the recruitment process. It is something that organisations are increasingly aware of when hiring and are seeking to overcome. Whilst many companies do want to foster and create an inclusive culture, it is not always easy to identify how to achieve this. Blind skills challenges and removing gendered wording from interviews is just one part of the solution.  Despite the steps forward that have been made towards gender equality, women can be held back due to unconscious beliefs that shape company practices and structures. Back in 2020, The International Labour Organisation published findings in a report about breaking down barriers stating that ‘unconscious gender bias remains a significant barrier to women’s career advancement’. The International Labour Organisation went on to detail that if leadership roles are solely held by men, ‘it perpetuates the “think-manager-think-male” perspective’. This is why it is important to have both women and men in senior leadership positions who can challenge this perspective and champion the best fit for role, with conscious steps to remove race, religion and gender from the decision-making process.

  • Mentorship 

Having access to a second or even third set of eyes, ears, and experience to help guide a person along their career and professional development can be helpful. However, this is a process that involves finding someone who can assume that role. On the panel we discussed whether it was important to consider gender when looking for a mentor and the impact of women helping other women. It was agreed that mentorship is something that should be assumed by both genders and should not just fall on the shoulders of women to lift other women up. Good people lift and support other good people –regardless of gender Soon after the event, Forbes published an article entitled ‘Forget Mentoring - Why Championing Is Essential For Women’s Leadership’. The piece started by referencing a book written by Kitty Chisholm and Dr. Shaheena Janjuha-Jivraj called ‘Championing Women Leaders’. The opening quote for this book recalls the wise words of Tennis Champion Billie Jean King; “We are not measured by the number of champions we create, but by the number of opportunities we create for others to be champions in life.” It is an interesting notion to consider moving beyond the initial step of mentoring and stepping into the shoes of championing as this is the process for really advocating someone else’s success. 

Championing is something that is closely tied to a company’s culture. It is something we have been exploring regularly at A1 as it is instrumental to informing both strategic and business related decision making. A championing culture fundamentally shapes an organisation’s behaviour and overall mindset. By truly advocating for others, it brings teams closer together and creates invested collective success by celebrating the personal and professional development of its people. 

  • Equity and goals

Role development is critical to every individual within a business. However, career goals vary for every individual. During the lunch panel, it was highlighted that there is one goal that more women should be striving towards and that is equity in the business. It was debated whether women are more hesitant to ask for equity.

Equity can be a great way to give key members of your team more ownership, which in turn gives them the motivation to be truly invested in the company. There are several ways to approach this conversation, and this will depend on several factors including the stage and potential growth of the company, the industry, funding and market conditions. Presenting the C-suite with evidenced backed information to prove performance and worth in relation to equity enables people to stay objective about what they are asking for. 

However, emotions and soft skills also come into this process. A key point highlighted on the panel is that women can sometimes be seen as being emotional when negotiating, with the inference that this is a weakness. Soft skills are inclusive of being able to communicate clearly, including perspectives and preferences, whilst also being able to encourage others to engage with their convictions and ideas. Which is in fact, an absolute strength.

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