From Nowhere to The Top: CEO Offers Tips for Women Leaders In Investment Management

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Growing up on a farm “in the middle of nowhere” in Ireland, with both her parents leaving school early on, Olive Darragh saw that education “was how you get yourself to where you want to be.”And now, the CEO and founder of Zolio, Inc. and the founder and managing director of Darragh, Inc., makes it her life’s mission to help women and people of color get to where they want to be in investment management.As a member of the advisory board of her alma mater, University of Edinburgh, Darragh, went on to graduate from Harvard Business School, and spent more than 20 years in investment management and talent recruitment at Morgan Stanley, then McKinsey & Co.. From there she went to Tudor Investments, where she was a partner leading Strategy and Talent Management as a champion of recruiting and promoting women.“Back then, I thought by the time I was this age, we wouldn’t be having these conversations anymore,” Darragh says. “Now companies understand having a diverse group of people is a nice thing to do, a responsible thing to do.” What is still missing, she says, “is that being diverse is not just good, but it is what you need to do to be successful.”What Zolio does since she created it in 2012, is offer risk-free investment training to young people who want to learn about investing through internships and competitions.It changes the way companies recruit and hire for investment careers, Darragh says, because candidates will have their investment data shown blindly to companies—without name, gender or any other information. This eliminates the bias of gender, schools or race.More than 3,000 interns have trained online through Zolio, with the goal of getting “more women and people of color into the investment industry and take the bias out of the entry level in the investment business.”As a veteran of recruiting strategy for many companies and a consultant on many more, Darragh has learned some key truths in how to build diverse teams to succeed and how to encourage women leaders at all levels.“You need to pay senior executives on how diverse their teams are. Every single executive who does not have 50 percent women on his team, should have his compensation tied to it.” She adds, “You start from the top.”New results from the National Venture Capital Association- -Deloitte Human Capital Survey, shows a dearth of women leaders and persons of color in senior roles in venture capital investment.[bctt tweet=“There’s a dearth of women & persons of color in senior roles in venture capital  #equality” username=“takeleadwomen”]“While women comprise 45 percent of the venture capital industry, findings show significant differences by firm size, location and investment focus. In general, the smaller the firm, the smaller the percentage of women on teams. For firms with five team members or fewer, women comprise 29 percent. For firms with 6-20 team members, women represent 41 percent of the workforce. In firms with 21 or more team members, women comprise 47 percent of team members,” according to the study.“According to the survey findings, women are consistently over-represented in administrative functions and underrepresented in investment functions. Women comprise 95 percent of administrative roles, 75 percent of investor relations, communications or marketing roles, yet only 15 percent of investment professional roles. Looking specifically at investment partners or equivalent on investment teams, women comprise only 11 percent,” the study shows.In her consulting business and in her travels for Zolio to campuses and schools, Darragh says she offers critical advice, not just for women entering the finance industry, but for all women leaders.“First of all you need to understand what finance means to you. You are responsible for your own financial security,” Darragh says. “Whatever you want to do, you have to understand how the market works, whether you are chief technology officer or head of HR. You always need to know how the market works.”That means encouraging financial literacy very early on—in grade school—and through college. And women need to look throughout their careers, not just for mentors, but for sponsors. Sponsors are those who will help you get a job, place you in a position and look out for you and hire you when they move to another position. They do not just dole out advice, they hire you. Women need this because research shows there are impediments along the way.[bctt tweet=“It is important to encourage financial literacy very early on & through college #leadership” username=“takeleadwomen”]“Significant barriers to success remain for women who want to launch their own firms and manage alternative investments,” writes Christine Williamson in Pensions & Investments.A new KPMG global study reveals, “55 percent of all survey respondents, including money managers, said there is a lack of positions where women can build a track record, while 53 percent said personal responsibilities make the industry’s typically long hours and frequent business travel less attractive to women. About 52 percent of survey respondents noted that women have historically had less access to investor capital than men; 34 percent said women have less desire than men to work in alternative investments; 20 percent said lack of education kept women out of the alternative investment arena; and 18 percent said there is lower demand for women-owned/managed funds, Williamson writes.Darragh says her other keen piece of advice for all working women in every stage of their careers and those aspiring women leaders, is to stop getting “caught up in talk about balancing their lives.”Simply put, Darragh says, men just don’t do that. If a woman is late for an early morning meeting or will miss it, she will go into a lengthy explanation about need to take her children to school. A male, she says, will simply say he can’t make it.She suggests you do not start a conversation with, “I need to balance my life,” but instead say, “Here is how I am going to do this.” Darragh adds, “We need to be less concerned about face time and more concerned about contributions.”Going into a recruiting scenario, Darragh also advises women leaders to “think about why you would be good at this job, how will you be good for this company and what do you care about?”She adds, ”Don’t look at what other people say you should do, but figure out what you are passionate about, research that and find what firms like that. You will work hard because it will be what you care about,” she says.The rest of the vision for your career is about knowledge. “I am a big believer in knowledge as it gives you confidence. You become important because you are the one who knows,” Darragh says.“Most smart people just want to hire the one person who knows the most.”