Lawrence Gosling talks to LGIM's Dame Helena Morrissey about how the investment world can improve its image problems and what real diversity looks like for the sector.
Networking and flexible working
In particular, a lack of networking support was identified by the Diversity Project survey as being the top inhibitor to diversity, with the report concluding that exclusive clubs - such as investment managers - tend to hire in their own image and are susceptible to groupthink.
Another big issue is flexible working, which is close to Morrissey's heart. "At Newton, one of the things I did soon after becoming CEO that was nothing to do with diversity was introduce a voluntary four-day working week," she says.
This was back in 2002 when, says Morrissey, the company's growth path was "stalling for a bit" and, in an effort to avoid redundancies, the company offered a four-day working week for a defined six-month period, with people being able to return to full-time work afterwards.
"To my surprise, as many men as women took the opportunity and to this day, some of the most senior male fund managers stayed on a four-day week.
"I asked one of them what they did on the fifth day and he said: 'oh I read, I take exercise'. And in all honesty, I must make it compulsory really because it helps for creating a realisation that we are focusing on results, not just on presentism."
Morrissey points out the wider world has the idea that fund managers live in an "intense, 24/7 markets open world" but actually "it is not like that, and you need to be able to think properly".
"Fund management is a cerebral job and ensuring working practices match that is the job of the management. Here, the issue of what women bring to fund management is very much to the fore.
"The impression that people had was you had to have maths skills, and it is not an emotionally intelligent kind of industry.
"Whereas I would argue that we need emotional intelligence big time if you are going to understand the psychology of markets and work in teams."
Emphasising this need and working on messaging to the next generation of fund managers are key elements of what Morrissey sees as her role as chair of the Diversity Project, although it remains a work-in-progress.
"One firm contacted me and said they only had a 12% female application rate in their graduate programme and that was after a very big campaign around trying to attract woman candidates.
"I did take a look at the brochure and it only had pictures of men in it so I said there are a few things you could do as a starting point, but I think the issue just has not had the attention and has been seen as very peripheral."