Ashleay: Welcome to the “In Your Interest!” podcast. My name is Ashleay and I'm very excited today for the subject that we're going to be discussing. So, we're lucky to have not one but two guests to discuss the challenges, advantages and opportunities in the world of capital markets for women. So, more specifically, we wanted to know how is everything going for a woman in a world that is comprised mostly of men? So, with me today, we have Sébastien Mc Mahon, Chief Strategist and Senior Economist at iA Financial Group, as well as Stéfanie Leduc, Vice-President and Head of Private Debt. Hi, Stéfanie. Hi, Sébastien.
Ashleay: So, Stéfanie, what is your role at iA Financial Group?
Stéfanie: So, I'm Head of Private Debt. I have a team of 7 persons who's responsible for managing a 4-billion portfolio in private debt. And also, about a year ago, I decided to be a sponsor of Women in Capital Markets. So, they asked me to be responsible for the relationship with them.
Sébastien: And quickly, what's Women in Capital Markets?
Stéfanie: Basically, it's an organization that tries to help the situation of women in finance.
Sébastien: Okay. So, more on that later.
Ashleay: And Stéfanie, can you give us an overview of the place of women in finance?
Stéfanie: So, there's been a lot of efforts done in the last few years. And when you're at the entry level, it's about 50% men, women. So, we're there at parity already. It's when you go up in the ladder, that's the, it might be a bit more problematic. So, you will find about 35% of managers that are women. So, they tend to be less promoted than men. And then if you go higher up at the executive level, it's about 20% to 25%.
Sébastien: That's very interesting. So, at the entry level, it's almost 50/50. So, there is parity there. But as you move up the ladder, there is more men than women. So, is it because women leave the profession more or they're less attracted in fully investing themselves in their careers?
Stéfanie: There's two things. I think definitely women are as ambitious as men, so they do leave more than men at the executive level. Definitely. And then there's the other fact that women tend to get less promoted and it takes them more time to get promoted.
Ashleay: And why do you think it takes them more time to get promoted?
Stéfanie: Oh, that's a great question, a complex one. And I don't pretend to have all the answers about that. I think there's probably something about the way the system is done. If you base the criteria for promotion on subjective criteria, then there's unconscious bias that will come in.
Ashleay: Interesting. And what are the reasons that women might be less attracted to the profession or as Sébastien was saying, that might leave more?
Stéfanie: There's definitely the fact that it's a male-dominated industry. So, attitudes and the way people behave might be one of the reasons it's harder for women to fit if every, all of her colleagues are men. The other thing is the family context situation. As long as women are responsible for the, for taking care of the family, it's hard to conciliate the fact that the work is asking a lot and it's difficult at home.
Sébastien: Yeah, it's kind of a 24/7 kind of job for… Well, there is a lot of, you know, Hollywood probably contributed to this perception that in finance, you know, we're working all day and making big calls and big investments. But it's not, it's not just that. I mean, there are some roles where like risk management and managing people are very important. And there are some roles for which, you know, you don't need to be, you know, an aggressive person or you don't need to be someone who's insensitive or you don't need to be always available. So, there is room for everyone in finance. Just want to make sure everyone understands that, right?
Stéfanie: Definitely. I think there's possibilities to have a great career for anyone.
Sébastien: Yeah. And you know, and if you're listening to this and you're a young woman, I mean, my wife is a high school teacher and she teaches finance to some 16-, 17-year old kids. And what she noticed over the years is that when they do like stock simulations, all of the little boys are very excited, but the girls are less interested. But when they talk about risk management, the young women are interested by that and the little boys less. So, there are some roles for both of these, you know, these types of ambitions or types of personalities. And there's important benefits to the finance industry to have gender diversity because of the different skill sets and attitudes towards the work.
Ashleay: Yeah, exactly. Stéfanie, why is gender diversity an important issue?
Stéfanie: Well, I think there's, just at the individual level, if you have women working for your company, you might want them to have equal opportunities as the men. You want them to thrive. At the company level, there's definitely a positive impact of having a more diverse workforce. For example, it can improve the decision-making process. You're going to have more customer-centric companies. It also changes, I think, the team dynamics having more equilibrium in the workforce. And also, women tend to give more emotional support to their colleagues. So, it's definitely positive.
Sébastien: Yeah, diversity of points of views when you, because all we do in finance is we make decisions, we take risks, we measure risks. So, having better risk taking, more points of views, as you said, that makes for stronger teams and stronger organizations.
Ashleay: Exactly. And if we want an organization to improve the situation, as you were saying, so that we can get all these benefits, what would you suggest, Stéfanie?
Stéfanie: Well, there's a lot of things that can be done and that has been tried in the past. I think we can think about mentoring, training women, hiring quotas, programs also that offer flexibilities in the workplace. The only thing is that there are sometimes a negative impact of those programs. If you take, for example, hiring, promotion quotas, then it might give the impression of the person that is being promoted that she got a preferential treatment and she might have to justify herself for getting that promotion. She doesn't know if it's because she was competent or because she's a woman.
Sébastien: Like imposter syndrome could be stronger in people, but for the wrong reasons, right? You want to have the diversity; women that are in positions of senior management. They're not there because they're women. They're there because they're competent. And we want the diversity.
Ashleay: Exactly. And organizations like “Women in Capital Markets” help find these alternative solutions. What approach does the organization advocate?
Stéfanie: “Women in Capital Markets” is working on three fronts. First thing is amplifying talent. So, they're looking at making sure that there's enough women interested by the profession and that those that are already in the profession have all the tools required to perform.
Sébastien: So, like activities in school, high school, universities, stuff like that?
Stéfanie: Exactly. So, they do workshops with high school students. They do cocktails with women and students in universities.
Sébastien: Okay. And is there some networking for women that, you know, you might be sitting alone on a trading desk somewhere in Toronto. You don't know the other women elsewhere, the reality that they're living. There’s… Networking is an important aspect of that, I suppose.
Stéfanie: Yeah, networking, mentoring as well.
Sébastien: Okay. Okay.
Stéfanie: The second thing is about improving understanding of issues, either by doing research or surveys.
Sébastien: Yeah, I think I read that there was a recent survey that from the finance industry, 600 people, if I'm correct, men and women. And there were some interesting tidbits coming out of there that at least opened my eyes. Can you give us a few stats from that survey?
Stéfanie: Yeah, definitely. Well, in that survey, it showed that 75% of the men that were surveyed felt that they were treated fairly versus women. For women, it was 50%. And 34% of women felt that they were paid fairly compared to men. For men, it was 90%. So, there is definitely a perception that they're not treated fairly, which is probably close to the reality.
Sébastien: Yeah, of course, if it's 34% only feel that they're fairly compensated, I mean, it's because there is a real problem somewhere.
Stéfanie: Yeah, exactly. Last point about that survey that can be interesting is 68% of those women that are early to mid career that took maternity leave thought that it had an impact, a negative impact on their career.
Sébastien: Yeah. And you know, it's not just that you go on maternity leave and when you get back, you know, your job is not there anymore. But I've heard anecdotes of women saying that when I came back from maternity leave, some aspects of my job had been distributed elsewhere and I lost them forever. So, you're at a disadvantage, of course, if you want to build your career on the way up.
Stéfanie: Yeah, exactly.
Ashleay: And so, Women in Capital Markets” approach is more about changing the system rather than fixing, if you will, women, correct?
Stéfanie: Exactly. And this is one of the reasons why I really like Women in Capital Markets, the way they work. It's not changing women. It's fixing the system. Examples of what they are suggesting to companies is to put in place pay equity programs, make sure that the feedback promotion system is based on results rather than perception, and show that you allocate opportunities more equitably within your workforce and be the most transparent you can about promotion criterias.
Ashleay: Excellent. And so, in conclusion, do you have any advice for women who might be listening to us at the moment?
Stéfanie: Sure. Don't be your enemy. Don't hold yourself back. Take credit for what you do, and don't be afraid to be visible.
Sébastien: Alright so, take your rightful place within the industry. That's the message here. And you know, in the long run, men, women, everyone will benefit. We’ll have stronger organizations, a more pleasant workplace. And, you know, diversity is the key to long-term success. I think it's pretty clear from the discussion here.
Ashleay: Absolutely agree, Sébastien and thank you for being here. Thank you, Stéfanie, as well. I think this was a very interesting exchange. And for our listeners, we hope you liked this podcast. If you did, don't hesitate to share, give your advice on it, and we will see you next week. Love this podcast? Want to know more about economic news? Follow our “In Your Interest!” podcast available on all platforms, visit the economic news page on ia.ca, or follow us on social media.