PenderFund senior VP on why diversity is key

Maria Pacella discusses the challenges faced by women in male-dominated industries

PenderFund senior VP on why diversity is key

Vancouver-based PenderFund Capital Management boasts an investment team with diverse cultures and skillsets, and more than 50 per cent women.

“Our diversity makes us such a strong business,” said Maria Pacella, portfolio manager & senior VP, private equity. She values the gender balance at PenderFund, having worked in some male-dominated firms earlier in her career where she experienced blatant sexual harassment.

“I didn’t speak up about it which I should have done, but it empowered me to get out of that situation and push on with my career,” she said.

Nowadays, Pacella finds the challenges faced by women are less blatant but she still encounters situations where men speak over her or make the assumption that she is not the decision-maker in a meeting.

“It’s so engrained in our culture now, it almost goes un-noticed,” she said. “Now I’m more confident and I just call it out, so hopefully I’m setting a good example for younger women.

“The best thing to do is speak up and surround yourself with supportive people – both men and women. That’s what I’ve done at PenderFund,” she added.

Pacella is optimistic that the inherent gender bias is moving in the right direction although she feels that we still need to see more women on boards and in decision-making roles. Women also need to be more supportive of one another, she remarked.

Growing up in Vancouver, Pacella was introduced to the concept of investing at a young age by her father who gave her money to invest in order to pay for her university education, and by her uncle who took her to a stock broker where she invested in tech stocks.

Pacella moved to Toronto in 1997 to work at Deutsche Bank where she spent three years doing cross-border mergers & acquisitions in a variety of sectors, before a brief stint at ExtendMedia as venture manager. She then returned to her roots in Vancouver to work for eleven years as VP of GrowthWorks Capital, one of the largest managers of retail venture capital funds in Canada with approximately $400- million under management.

The turning point in Pacella’s career came in 2017 when she had the opportunity to lead a fund for the first time, by joining PenderFund.

Pacella’s advice to young women starting out in the wealth industry: “Look for female role models and don’t let barriers hold you back. Being determined is more than half the battle.”