Is ETF industry giving women more career opportunities?

Relatively fledgling space proving more fruitful but one of the world’s leading ETF analysts says more change is needed

Is ETF industry giving women more career opportunities?

The fast-rising ETF industry is helping women gain more of a foothold in wealth management.

That’s the view of Deborah Fuhr, managing partner and co-founder of ETFGI and former managing director at both BlackRock /Barclays Global Investors and Morgan Stanley.

Fuhr, one of the world’s leading ETF analysts, is also a founder and on the board of Women in ETFs and addressed the hall during a panel at the Radius Exchange Traded Forum in Toronto yesterday.

While the panellists agreed there was much more to be done to ensure women have the opportunities and pathways to the boardroom, Fuhr told Wealth Professional the ETF industry had provided some encouragement.

She said: “I think women are doing better in the ETF industry because men tend to go for jobs that are high profile and well established.

“ETFs, although they are growing quickly, hasn’t been that segment of the industry to date so you tend to find that women are more likely to raise their hand to do it.”

Men are still the majority, she said, given the fact that women make up only 34% of the financial industry. However, Fuhr, who is hosting the ETFs Global Markets Roundtable in Toronto on May 31, said that simply having extra opportunity to meet people had boosted careers.

She said: “Many have said that Women in ETFs have helped them further their career because of networking. People get a chance to come to events where normally if you’re in legal, portfolio management, HR, wherever, you don’t get a chance to come to these events.

“So we hold events that are free, we invite everyone to come. The chance to come out and meet people is very beneficial. It helps people find new jobs, advance their career, so I’ve seen it help.”

The topic of quotas came up during the panel discussion, with Deborah Frame, president and CIO of Frame Global Asset Management, believing that maybe this was needed to jolt the selection process. She highlighted the example of Justin Trudeau’s 50% cabinet rule and the subsequent success of Chrystia Freeland, currently heading the NAFTA negotiations in her role as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Frame said: “She’s doing an awesome job, respected on the world stage. That’s just one example, that maybe she would not have been in that position [without the rule] and how sometimes you have to start with a quota just to get to a point that makes more sense.

“Without a quota, without unconscious bias, maybe 70% of the cabinet would be women – we don’t know and that’s the problem because we don’t know where we’re starting from.”

For Fuhr, educating people about unconscious bias is preferable to installing quotas which she believes can sometimes lead to suspicion.

She said: “I am not a fan of quotas because I think it makes people think someone is given a job even if they are not qualified. I really think people should be selected based on being qualified for the job but I do think it’s important to have women on the list of people to be considered because too often they are not. I think that is something that could be changed.

“[It’s also] about educating people about unconscious bias; to be aware of what they are doing, how they perceive things like expecting that a woman’s likely going to go get married and have babies and not work. I think there are a lot of things that float around in people’s heads.”

The ETFs Global Markets Roundtable takes place on May 15 in New York, while the Toronto event takes place on May 31.