'We're all in this together' when it comes to gender equality

Advisors - men and women - should be talking to young women about what a great career this is

'We're all in this together' when it comes to gender equality

If the financial services industry truly wants to improve its gender equity to handle the male to female transfer of wealth that’s already started, then everyone must help.

“We’re all in this together,” Jenifer Rush, the head of responsible investing and manager research for Sun Life Global Investments, told Wealth Professional. “We all – men and women – need to push this forward and recognize that we’re all better when we have more participation from all of us. We need to make sure that we’re all going in the same direction.”

Rush is participating on the “Innovating the model: The value of a women-centric approach” panel at the Women in Wealth online summit on Dec. 6. There’s still time to register. Advisors can attend for free.

While many in the financial industry have talked about what women can bring to a team in a more diverse environment and the fact they’re also seen as better listeners with stronger track records as portfolio managers, Rush noted that there’s still not numerical parity. Only 14% of advisors were women when she began 25 years ago, and other summit speakers have noted that’s it’s still only climbed to 23%. So, there’s still a lot of work to be done to build gender parity across the industry.

“I think we have to be more intentional,” said Rush. “I think we have to really think about things like mentorship. I was reading a Harvard study on what works and doesn’t work, and mandatory training doesn’t really work. Voluntary training often works better when you try to build diversity in the workforce. But I think we can talk to commerce and high school students about a career in finance, and then we need these mentorship programs for younger women.”

Rush said she used to participate in such school programs. Now, she teaches in the Masters in Finance program at Queen’s University. She encouraged others to talk to the young women who are completing their studies about the fact that there is a great career in the financial industry.

“We need to bring more people into the industry. We need to get them at the beginning and we need to help them have a career,” she said. “We also need to make sure there are mentors, and they don’t all have to be women. It has to be people who understand that women do have a different path than men since it’s women who are going to have the babies if they’re going to have families.”

Rush pointed to programs like Sun Life’s Lie Bright Scholarship Program, which focuses on understanding gender diversity in the workplace. There’s also the Women in Capital Markets’ Return to Bay Street, which helps women re-enter the financial work force. But, she noted that it would be good to have more support for parental leave welcoming women back into their careers.

“I’m absolutely hopeful about the future,” she said, noting that the younger generation are seeing the barriers less as they enter their careers, though women still need to grasp the opportunities as they arise. “Young people don’t think about differences. So, I’m very hopeful, but we need to keep our foot to the pedal. I do see real change happening, and I can see people focused on it.”