In recognition of International Women’s Day on 8 March, PIMCO leaders in three regions recently discussed the progress they see for women in finance and their own career experiences: Sonali Pier, a portfolio manager from the Americas; Haining Yin, head of Greater China; and Eleni Sifakis, an account manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
Q: You have built a career in portfolio management. Yet, across 56 countries, women manage only about one in five investment funds, according to Morningstar. How can the industry attract more women?
Sonali Pier: Certainly there is more work to be done to attract and retain female talent in the investment industry. That said, this is an exciting industry where your contributions are quantifiable, and as a result, we should be able to attract all types of diversity, not just gender. Diversity of perspectives and opinions builds more robust portfolios, generates better investment ideas and leads to innovations that help clients achieve their objectives. In particular, diversity of thought can combat unconscious bias and “groupthink.” We try to be aware of the cognitive bias codex, because as investors we want to make decisions based on analysis – not emotions.
With regard to women specifically, they make the bulk of consumer-led decisions, thus affecting a major component of GDP, and they currently hold a substantial and rising share of private wealth globally. So their perspectives toward investing are very important.
Several organizations are working to raise awareness and help women advance their careers in finance. Recently, 100 Women in Finance launched a female fund manager visibility campaign to showcase women’s talent to their colleagues, clients and the next generation of women entering the industry. Additionally, at PIMCO we have partnered with Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit that aims to increase the number of women in the industry by offering intensive education, internships and opportunities to network and seek mentors.
These are great steps toward encouraging women to enter and succeed in portfolio management.
Q: What progress have you observed for women in leadership roles in Asia, and what opportunities do you see for the future?
Haining Yin: In many parts of Asia, the workplace is already quite diverse. My global colleagues are impressed by how many women work in our Asia offices and in the financial services industry broadly. As these colleagues travel through Asia, they are further surprised by the prevalence of senior-level female clients on the other side of the meeting table. In fact, this is common in Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, in particular.
One reason for the number of women in finance is the support structure in Asia. Many women have grown up in families where both parents made a living for the family, and that has influenced the current generation of professionals – both male and female. In addition, the family structure itself is supportive – grandparents often contribute in many ways. Childcare and helper services are also widely available in parts of Asia. For many women in Asia, then, building a career is not a work-life choice or trade-off, but rather active problem-solving to make both career and family work and even thrive. Knowing that is very empowering for women.
A more diverse community provides healthy ground for broader networking and mentorship, for both men and women. PIMCO Women, a key part of our Inclusion, Diversity and Culture (IDC) initiative for 10 years, has aimed to support women by hosting outside speakers and internal discussions that raise awareness and offer support. These enlightening leadership dialogues have helped shape how we think about diversity at PIMCO today.
Q: In EMEA, what value have you seen investments in diversity bring to PIMCO’s workplace and the financial services industry in general, and where do you see opportunity?
Eleni Sifakis: Cultural diversity has always played an important role at PIMCO in EMEA due to the mere fact that the region covers 28 countries with over 20 official languages. Being Greek and French myself and having studied and worked beyond my countries of origin in Switzerland, China, the U.S. and the U.K., I am the result of a mix of cultures. Rather than an exception, my path is very much representative of the backgrounds people have in our EMEA offices. How would we understand our clients’ perspectives and better serve their local needs without a rich employee base?
Drawing from a diverse pool is a firmwide priority, and it has guided our efforts to engage earlier and better with young undergraduate women who might not otherwise consider the asset management industry as a career choice. Working together with human resources, we have established partnerships with a number of targeted universities across Europe, organizing or participating at local campus events. Within only a year we have seen encouraging results: Around 400 female applications have been received, representing 29% of our total applications versus 20% the year before.
There is still more that we can do.
Beyond women, we will continue to seek more talent from ethnic minorities and people from varied socioeconomic backgrounds. By working closely with organizations such as SEO London (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity), we hope to broaden our outreach to ethnic minorities who still face barriers to social mobility and job opportunities: For the first time, we have three new employees introduced by SEO joining our client-facing team as part of the 2019 undergraduate class in EMEA.
Beyond hiring, we will also look to further develop and promote our existing pool of talent and encourage them to contribute their diverse perspectives. Progress is underway, and the momentum is definitely there!
Explore PIMCO’s Women & Investing platform.