Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Great Opportunity for Women Interested in Trading and Finance

When my daughter Devon was quite young, we had a toy doctor's kit and one day decided to play "doctor" with one of her dolls.  I gave Dev the stethoscope and other equipment and I said I would help her with the examination.  She looked confused and gave the stethoscope back to me.  She said, "You be the doctor, I'll be the nurse."  When I asked her why I should be the doctor, she gave me a puzzled look--as if I should know better--and said, "Boys are the doctors!"

I was dumbfounded.  Never had Margie or I explicitly said anything of the sort to Devon.  When I reflected, however, I realized that all her doctors had been men and all her nurses had been women.  She couldn't think of herself as a doctor because she had never seen a female physician!  That was a perception I was eager to correct.

I fear much of the same thing happens in the field of finance.  As I documented in a Forbes article last year, women are woefully underrepresented in the world of money management.  During the time I've participated in recruitment of traders and portfolio managers, resumes from men have outnumbered those from women by 20:1.  Even when women are hired by financial firms, they often lack upward career paths.  For example, as my article outlines, six of the ten career fields in which the income gap between men and women is greatest are in the world of finance.

This is all the more ironic because research cited in the Forbes piece clearly shows that men tend to be more prone to cognitive biases and poorer trading/investment decisions than women, often as a result of overtrading and excessive risk-taking.  Conversely, many of the factors that account for career success are "soft skills" associated with interpersonal skill and emotional intelligence. Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores, with relationship and communication skills making the critical difference--qualities more often associated with feminine sex roles than masculine ones.

Fortunately, efforts are under way to cultivate trading and leadership talent among women.  Most noteworthy is the trading competition being sponsored by Zolio.  The contest has just begun, but it's not too late to sign up and participate.  Contestants select a portfolio of stocks and/or ETFs that are tracked for performance.  Participants also keep a journal and manage their portfolios.  Prizes are awarded, not just for profitability, but also for process-oriented factors such as risk management and creativity.  Winners are invited to a Boston meet and greet with industry leaders in finance.  The idea is to open a door for women, who like my daughter, may never have thought of themselves as a successful person in a "male" occupation.  Because the competition is free, it's a great way to explore the field and get a feel for what it's like to manage capital.

So often, our greatest limits are those that we cannot see, that are embedded in our assumptions about ourselves and the world.  There are many opportunities possible for all of us if we can expand our vision of who we are and what we're capable of.

Further Reading:  Social Intelligence and Trading Skill