Wells Fargo Asset Management
Managing director and lead portfolio manager, PMV Equity
I got into the industry a little bit by mistake. I graduated with a degree in teaching and then had my son who was born with a heart defect. So I was not so much focused on my career but on paying bills, getting a job with flexible hours.
My very first mentor in this industry was really my first boss, a portfolio manager. I think what I lacked was confidence at an early stage in my career. But he really believed that I could do it, he pushed me into roles that I thought maybe I wasn’t prepared for. It was challenging to me because he was the most difficult person I’ve worked for, but when I look back now, I see all the value brought to the table and it was mostly in instilling the confidence that I didn’t really have at the time.
I’ve certainly been in situations where I was the only woman. Once at an energy conference, I was mistaken for the staff that was supposed to be bringing lunch. You have to have the confidence to say, ‘Sorry I don’t work here, I’m here for the meeting’. When I first got into the industry, I would have been so flustered, I wouldn’t have known what to do, but you just have to have the confidence to say you belong here and just fit in. I think that’s a challenge in that you want people to take you seriously and so you have to display a greater level of confidence in this job as a woman than you may have.
Director of manager research practice, North America
I think there are a lot of benefits to pursuing a career in investment management, I would certainly encourage women to do that. If you are good at your role and you are making money for your firm, you will move up. The asset management industry is very much a meritocracy in that sense and I think that should be encouraging to women that if you’ve got good results, you should be rewarded. We’ve had very high-profiled women growing up in this business such as Abby Johnson from Fidelity, Jenny Johnson at Franklin, Mary Erdoes at JP Morgan. Hopefully that provides an example for women leaders.
I’ve spent my manager research career at Morningstar and Morningstar is a pretty flat organization and very democratic in its approach to things so I haven’t felt like my voice hasn’t been heard because I’m a woman and I have fewer opportunities. But I have noticed, as I see it here, there are fewer women in management than men, that’s a fact here as in other firms our size and in this industry.
There are a lot of challenges for the investment management industry when it comes to financial literacy and women. There’s a lot of research from Fidelity and other organizations that quantified that women are not very confident making decisions with their savings. We are good at the consumer piece and making those well-informed decisions but we are not confident when it comes to making investment decisions.
If you are good at asking questions, following trends and analyzing data, you might be an excellent investment researcher, you could be an excellent portfolio manager. But if you can’t get over that financial literacy hurdle, it’s probably lost you at the starting line. I think that’s something the industry can do to attract more women.
We’ve come to this period where a lot of active managers have been challenged to deliver good returns. To me, I think that is a great argument for diversity. If you add new ideas to the conversation, you are going to get different results. If you keep having the same conversation over and over again, you will likely get the same results. I think that the industry would really benefit from diversity in terms of attracting assets and hopefully having more successful outcomes from an investment perspective.
Kristine J. Mogollon
Thrivent Mutual Funds
Director of investment product management
I don’t feel like I have had a lot of personal experience with gender discrimination. I know this is certainly not everyone’s experience and I’m very grateful to the generation of women before me who helped make this possible. Thanks to their efforts at breaking the glass ceiling, I feel like I’ve been taken seriously and have had excellent opportunities throughout my career. Having strong credentials, including an MBA and CFA charter, have certainly helped. I do remember that when I graduated with my MBA in 1997, some of my aunts and the older ladies at church asked me if I was going to be a secretary. Women were still required to wear skirts at one of my first jobs! Overall though, I’ve worked with wonderful people who value and respect women and have encouraged me to continue growing in my career. More recently, I believe there’s been much more emphasis on valuing diversity and I believe that’s opened doors and created opportunities that didn’t exist even just a few years ago.
Wells Fargo Investment Institute
Senior research director
My father was an investment banker so I grew up seeing him being invigorated by his job. It is certainly a time-consuming profession but one that he enjoyed doing so I was raised to think what was important in life was to find something you loved doing. I view myself as really lucky that I am able to do it.
I’ve been lucky to have been working for the same company for 13 years now. To me, it has always been a leader in promoting gender equality and diversity. Even prior to coming to Wells Fargo, I think I’ve been lucky that I’ve never encountered being challenged to career progression based on gender. I feel like I’ve always been judged and rewarded on my skills rather than my gender.
My advice to younger women just getting into the industry would be: ‘trust yourself.’ This was given to me by my first boss out of graduate school. One day he just turned around and told me: ‘You’ve got to trust yourself because you have good instincts.’ That has always stayed with me. I would say that to women coming into the financial industry to trust yourself and have faith that you can do the job well and challenge yourself to succeed, but also to find people inside and outside of the company that also inspire you and can help you ask good questions and get good answers.
I think it’s important to continue to raise the awareness that there are women doing this today, doing it really well, loving what they do and succeeding. It’s not so much about me fighting a fight for them, it’s more about if you find a good company and good role models to work with, you’ll feel that there are places where diversity is promoted and encouraged, it’s just a matter of putting your mind to it and working hard.
Director of portfolio management and a portfolio manager for Invesco Quantitative Strategies
Wilson grew up on a farm as the youngest of three girls and took a roundabout route to becoming the portfolio manager she is today.
After a stint at the Federal Reserve, Wilson learned the ins and outs of investments at General Motors Asset Management, selecting managers for the firm’s corporate pension plan.
Part of the reason she didn’t take a direct path into investing was because there was no clear channel, she says.
‘You have to be introduced to the industry because a lot of people don't know these portfolio management roles exist,’ she says.
After 30 years in the industry, there is still work to be done.
‘The industry is changing. I see more women today than I've seen in a long time and that's a good thing. But I think there can be more,’ she says, adding that mentors are crucial here.
‘Whether it’s a man or a woman, you need someone who is willing to talk positively about you when you’re not in the room. Those are the people that think a step ahead and put you in a position where you can really thrive,’ she says.
Wilson’s own mentor was a senior woman who was a managing director at Invesco.
‘Women bring a different perspective. I've had wonderful opportunities but none of it would have happened without people who looked out for me during my career,’ she says.
While that colleague has since left Invesco, Wilson has continued to pay it forward. She is a founding member of the Invesco Women’s Network and on the board of directors for the Women’s Bond Club of New York. In an event at the Women’s Bond Club addressing young women recently, Wilson’s advice was this: ‘Stop thinking about the job and start thinking about the career. It's not always a straight path. There are going to be many things that could derail you, that make you get off the path. You have to stay in the game. If you need to take a step back, keep your head in the game because everything else keeps moving forward.’
Eaton Vance Investment Managers
Portfolio manager on the Eaton Vance Focused Growth Opportunities fund
Barton started her career in operations, getting in the weeds of financial analysis.
‘I got a good grasp of investing from the back office side which was extremely helpful as I started out. I learned all sorts of mechanics behind financial statement analysis’ she says.
She joined Eaton Vance 20 years ago and knew early on that she wanted to be an equity investor.
‘Ultimately I wanted to be on the equity side and the one thing that really attracted me is having that sense of ownership,’ she says.
This ownership continues to be a big reason why she loves what she does.
‘The meritocracy and the ability to quantify your value-add and the impact that your decisions are having on the portfolio and ultimately to the investors is extremely rewarding. It’s hard to want what you can't see.’
She says other senior women investors at Eaton Vance have helped in her career development.
‘I had the opportunity to look up to women that were holding these prominent positions and were successful in those positions in all different ranks, that was crucial,’ she says.
Like others in this article, Barton believes one reason there are not more women in these roles is that they don’t know they exist.
‘When you say I want to be a portfolio manager nobody knows what that is,’ she says. ‘When I was rising, I had women to look up to.’
She adds that education is also key, highlighting qualifications such as the CFA.
‘There is a sense of credibility that it brings with it because it is very difficult to get and those that have it, really understand the path that you have to go through to get it,’ she says. ‘I tell my girls you can do anything but education is key.’
She acknowledges that women often have to juggle lots in their life outside of work, but suggests this can be an advantage.
‘My perspective is going to be so different as a mother. And that's the beauty of it, is that your life experiences have an impact on your professional life and that can make you great. That's your edge. You become your edge.’
Bridges Fund Management
Partner and head of the Bridges US Sustainable Growth fund
Before founding a firm and leading a social impact fund, Burgess started where most private equity deals begin: in commercial lending. While life as a lender gave her a crucial and deep understanding of managing cash flow and risk, her heart was really in the boardroom.
‘The strategic development and decision making of what strategy and how to execute on that strategy is what really intrigued me,’ she says.
To Burgess, private equity is not just about the deal, but also the people.
‘In this role, [the controlling equity interest of a company] has the opportunity to protect the company from downside and the strategic direction to allow it to grow. And all of these companies are collections of people.’
Running a social impact fund in the private equity sphere married Burgess’ passion for private equity and making a difference.
‘Ultimately investing in, and growing a company is a huge responsibility. It’s important to get that decision-making process right. Because yes, you're gambling with money, but you're really gambling with people's lives. And that is what really lit the fire for me,’ she says.
She believes that having more women in decision-making roles is a positive step for both business and society.
Burgess says the diversity of her own team, which has women in senior and junior roles, has helped her win investments.
‘That is allowing my firm to stand out amongst the competitive nature of private equity,’ she says. ‘As the world changes, if the sellers and CEOs are women and you don't have any women in your investment ranks, it could hurt you competitively going forward. Strategically, it’s a good investment decision.’
‘There's a lot of women that are in the support field for private equity but you've got to have more women doing the deal to really feel the industry change.’
She says it is crucial to mentor the next generation of women in finances, as this investment in time may not pay off straight away, but will in the long-run.
‘It is very difficult to do in a private equity firm because you can't feel the actual dollar yield from doing that,’ she says. ‘[But] it translates into building a firm and creating strong people beneath the top partners to allow the firm to grow.’
Executive vice president and portfolio manager
Pier began her career in a space where women were scarce: credit trading. Prior to joining Pimco in 2013, she was a senior credit trader at JP Morgan.
While the word ‘derivatives’ may sound intimidating, Pier is passionate about what she does. What she appreciates about investment management is the clarity.
‘The environment is very focused on your professional contributions, there’s a [performance] number behind your name,’ she says.
Pier also believes in the power of mentors and advocates. ‘Sponsorship is important to climb the higher rungs,’ she says. ‘Mentors help give perspective to your choices.’ In her experience at Pimco, Pier has seen inclusion first-hand at the firm’s quarterly gatherings to discuss global and economic outlooks. ‘If you have a contribution to make, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman - come to the forum,’ she says.