Partner, Audit, Deloitte
Originally Published by Deloitte, for Performance Magazine – Issue 39 Published on 28 July 2022. 100 Women in Finance | Deloitte Luxembourg | Performance Magazine
To celebrate 100WF Cayman’s 10th anniversary, I met with Odette Samson, Deloitte Audit Partner and 100WF’s Global Advisory Council member. We reflected on our progress and the mission of Vision 30/40. By the year 2040, we want to see 30 % of industry leadership positions – particularly in investment management and executive committees – held by women. It might not be easy, but I’m confident we can do it. – Amanda Pullinger
TO THE POINT
- 100WF is a global network that empowers women at every stage of their careers.
- The organization’s global footprint has grown to 31 locations across five continents.
- Vision 30/40 aims to see women occupy 30% of senior investment roles and executive committee positions by 2040.
- With a global network of more than 20,000 registered members and a suite of programs, 100WF is making an impact by engaging the next generation.
100 Women in Finance (100WF) is a global network of finance and alternative investment professionals working together to empower women at every stage of their careers. Through educational, impact and peer engagement initiatives, 100WF’s more than 20,000 registered members make connections and create opportunities that advance careers and strengthen the financial services industry.
During a visit to Grand Cayman to celebrate 100WF Cayman’s 10th anniversary, Odette Samson, Deloitte Audit Partner and 100WF Global Advisory Council member, spoke with Amanda Pullinger, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 100WF, to discuss 100WF’s mission and challenges, and the best practices she has learned during her career supporting women.
Amanda, 2020 marked 100WF’s 20th anniversary. How has your mission evolved over the last 20 years?
100 Women in Finance started its journey as 100 Women in Hedge Funds. Based on the tremendous support and interest by organizations and women from other finance sectors, we relaunched as 100 Women in Finance in 2016 with a mission of empowering women across the finance industry.
As I reflect on what we have achieved, the fact remains that the number of women in the industry has not changed much in the past 20 years. We’ve found that two demographics are slow to grow: a) senior investment professionals and b) executive committee members. We believe we can make progress on the ratio of women to men, which will benefit women in every single role.
To tackle this, we’ve created our guiding principle, Vision 30/40. Our goal is to see women occupy 30% of senior investment roles and executive committee positions by 2040. As this is not a simple problem to solve, we will try different approaches and give ourselves time to achieve this goal.
But how? By engaging the next generation of pre-career women who we can inspire. As part of the journey, we’ve got to understand where we are now, track our progress, and analyze what the data tells us.
We are very pleased to be partnering with Deloitte in measuring our progress on executive committee memberships. And there is more to come!
How have things progressed towards achieving 100WF’s goals over the 20 years since you launched? Are we seeing change?
If we look at asset management specifically, only about 10% of the world’s fund managers across hedge funds, private equity (PE), venture capital (VC), and long-only mutual funds are women. That percentage hasn’t changed over the 20 years of our organization. Regarding our mission to attain 30% over 20 years, I can say that if this were a simple problem to solve for our industry, we would have already solved it.
To increase the number of women, particularly in investment roles, we need to try many long-term approaches. I believe 20 years is realistic, as it allows us to engage the next generation, as well as pre-career women, to support their growth and inspire them. We do so not only by connecting them with women who are successful in these roles, but also by showing them the positive impact that our industry is making in ordinary people’s lives.
As an industry, we’ve done a terrible job communicating that 80% of the assets we manage are for endowments, foundations and pension funds. Both men and women of the next generation are not aware this is the case. To engage and attract them, we need to demonstrate the difference we can make in the world, the really interesting roles in the industry, and the pathway to get there.
Deloitte was an early member of 100WF’s Leadership Council, a select group of international banks, alternative investment firms, and asset management firms who are committed to supporting 100WF’s long-term mission. How are you collaborating with your leadership council to gain traction toward Vision 30/40?
We need to engage the industry for our vision to succeed because we need things to change within firms as well as externally. We want our industry sponsors and members to come along the journey with us. One of our exciting initiatives this year is a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Corporate Award that covers the Americas, EMEA and APAC. We’ve completed our first round for EMEA and received 27 applications.
As part of this process, we examine the percentage of the corporation’s senior female professionals today and 2 years ago, as well as its DEI targets, policies and initiatives put in place over the past few years. With this information, we will not only recognize the corporations walking the walk both internally and externally, but also publish a guide on how corporations of all sizes across cultural lines are approaching this topic.
We will be publishing the initiatives of our first award and creating materials to share best practices and help companies achieve the 30% goal. I believe that, by all of us working together, we will reach the executive committee role percentage much sooner than 2040. And if we apply the approaches I mentioned earlier, we can get there faster for investment professionals too.
Have the challenges of the global pandemic impacted the trajectory towards Vision 30/40?
One of the amazing outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic was that it allowed 100WF to grow globally. We gained more women voices as experts, with over 300 speakers joining the discussion. We adapted to the restrictions by hosting more virtual events, and now have over 300 hours of on-demand recordings to share with members.
Our global footprint is now in 31 locations across five continents, most recently in Africa, including South Africa that just launched in June, and Kenya. If our global corporate members have employees in a location, we will be active in that location. We’ve seen a massive influx of companies approaching us because they want their people engaged in this global network.
We also took advantage of this time to develop our programs to help us reach Vision 30/40. We’ve hired a Chief Impact Officer, Chaitali Patel, whose background in business strategy is truly transforming how we approach our mission. Our outreach to pre-career women has resulted in us adding more than 160 universities to our roster, identifying strategic non-profit partners to support, and harnessing our 20,000 registered members to mentor and guide these students across locations during both virtual and in-person events.
I believe we’re changing the world, one girl at a time. We now have our own scholarships and a proprietary suite of programs such as Jumpstart, Launch Me, and of course Cayman’s mentoring program GirlForce 100, our first internally developed program to reach pre-career young women.
Our Deloitte CFO surveys have indicated that talent is now the top priority of senior executives. What are you seeing regarding the so-called war for talent?
The industry is desperate for talent. The Great Resignation has exacerbated an already existing issue, and companies are under huge pressure to not only attract talent but also increase the diversity of their people. We are building a solution for the industry, and we can also connect companies with staff of all levels, from early career applicants to senior professionals.
We are increasingly the connector, whether it is for board opportunities or investment roles. Our website lists the contacts of more than 500 female portfolio managers, and our hugely successful global Fund Women conferences connect institutional and other types of investors to these portfolio managers. We also offer pre-career internships. Our organization is at an amazing place to serve the talent needs of the industry.
You have mentioned that the visibility of women in the industry is a key driver for change. Can you tell us more about that?
Visibility to me is critical. As we talk as a global organization about diversity, our membership features very diverse people. For me, every single woman can make a difference for each other and the next generation, whether it’s getting involved in our Launch Me program and mentoring a woman in the industry, speaking on panels, writing articles, or leading an initiative. You may never know the impact, but I can tell you, it will be dramatic.
I’ll give you a very personal example. Margaret Thatcher was the first in her family to go to university and she made it to Oxford. I went to Oxford because I was influenced by this woman I had never met but who was visible to me. Think about that. Increasing your visibility will also change your career trajectory along the way.
If we are going to reach Vision 30/40, we need to change the perception of what a CEO looks like. Interestingly, there are more women CEOs and more female chairs of boards in Nigeria than I have seen elsewhere. They have something we need to share with the rest of the world because women in our industry need to see that it is possible.
I want to encourage all women to be increasingly visible both internally in their firms and externally. It’s good for them, and it’s good for the next generation.
As we rebuild the workplace, how can companies put equality, diversity, and inclusion at the core of their talent strategies? What are some of the things employers can do to make the workplace more inclusive?
I believe we cannot achieve our mission by ourselves; we’ve got to engage both men and women in the industry. The number one way to help is to be deliberate in giving women on your team opportunities to be visible. Find them a 100WF panel, and if they aren’t comfortable, get them a coach.
The impact will change lives. When management is actively supporting diversity, they will be pleasantly surprised at what women can achieve on that stage, and it will make a difference to their colleagues and their clients. I also believe women need to ask for an opportunity, and are encouraged to use this network for that purpose
Tell us about your journey here in Cayman.
It all started 10 years ago at a breakfast in New York, when a small group of women in Cayman created a proposal to set up a Cayman Islands location. It now has more than 800 members and is the fourth largest 100WF location behind New York, London and Hong Kong.
What was unique about the Cayman 100WF is that most locations start with the Education pillar and slowly grow over time to add Peer Engagement and Impact. The Cayman location had a huge demand for all the initiatives we had developed; therefore, within its first 3 years, it had established an active Education committee, an annual Impact global gala fundraiser, active peer engagement groups, a NextGen group and a NextGen Inspire conference. All of these had a clear impact on the early careers of professional women.
They then layered 100 Women in Finance’s proprietary program GirlForce 100, which mentors pre-career girls attending both public and private schools in the Cayman Islands. It is truly inspiring to visit the Cayman Islands and all locations to meet the organization’s beneficiaries first-hand, and see the impact we are making on their lives. I’m very proud of everything we have built together here, and I’m excited to see what more we can achieve together over the next 10 years of 100WF in the Cayman Islands and globally.
- The industry is demanding a diverse talent pool, and 100WF is working closely with its members, global corporate supporters and program partners to offer solutions to the challenge.
- 100WF is increasingly the connector for companies seeking talent for board opportunities and investment roles, and a pipeline of early-stage female professionals to join their team.
- To engage and attract the next generation, we need to show the difference we can make on a global scale, the interesting roles on offer in the industry, and the way to get there.
- Increasing the visibility of women in the industry is crucial to achieving 100WF’s Vision 30/40, 30% more women by 2040.
- By harnessing 100WF’s global network and taking deliberate action, 100WF believes it will reach Vision 30/40 much sooner than planned.