WISE Move: Investors in Social Responsibility Partner For Take The Lead Day
Paid family leave, gender parity in corporate leadership, equal pay, diversity of employees and socially responsible investments are all commitments Emily DeMasi seeks to make in her work as a portfolio manager at the $550 million Zevin Asset Management firm.
And it is also why as a member of Women Investing For A Sustainable Economy (WISE), she is on board for a Boston event for Take The Lead Day on November 14 for a global day of action to move towards gender parity in all leadership by 2025.
The Boston Take The Lead Day event, “Take The Lead As Investors: Advocating For Gender Equality,” includes a brown bag lunch and a discussion with registration here.
“It is just good human capital management to offer equal paid leave to all types of parents—mothers, fathers, adoptive parents, same sex parents,” DeMasi says.
With 14 employees, Zevin has grown since its founding in 2000 by Robert Zevin, who launched the firm attuned to his sense of social justice. DeMasi has been with Zevin for five years, following volunteer work in Africa for the Peace Corps., and later in New York working in private equity fundraising.She works with Pat Tomaino, who leads most of Zevin’s engagement efforts as Associate Director of Socially Responsible Investing.
After graduating from Boston University, followed by a decade of work and volunteer experience, DeMasi went back to her home town of Pittsburgh to earn a masters in public policy and MBA from Duquesne University. She says it was “serendipitous” to work at Zevin, where all of her life interests aligned.
Once in Boston, DeMasi became a member of WISE, a group that launched in Boston in April 2013 and now has 250 members. WISE has seven chapters globally in New York City, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Toronto, London, and Los Angeles and more than 800 members, including a new chapter in Philadelphia started this month, according to Whitney Rauschenbach, co-founder and co-leader of the Boston chapter.
“Regarding Take the Lead Day, WISE is dedicated to creating a global community of women in the ESG investment industry (that stands for environment, social and governance) in order to advance the field,” Rauschenbach says.
“We recognize our participation and recognition in this space relies on continual support, learning, and sharing by women and for women. Inherent in our mission, we support women in the ESG investing ecosystem as they look to advance in their careers and assume leadership both in and outside of their firms,” Rauschenbach says.
WISE members are public and private asset managers, wealth managers, investment consultants, investors, analysts, data providers, NGOs, academic institutions, and more.
READ MORE HERE AT TAKE THE LEAD ABOUT WOMEN INVESTORS.
DeMasi says the networking and community of other women working is investment is helpful. “We all need to lift each other up,” she says.
“I still find it difficult,” she says of the “male-dominated industry” of finance. But it appears more women are in the socially responsible investment field, she says, than across the whole finance sector.
“I was always told that you can be what you can see,”DeMasi says. “But when I go to conferences and to client meetings, I am still the only woman in the room.”
For DeMasi, her personal experience and commitment to parity drive her to encourage the companies in her clients’ portfolios to do their best for gender parity. “I come to this paid family leave campaign after two pregnancies—one at a community development financial institution and the other at Zevin. These were two socially progressive firms and it was still not easy to get what I thought was adequate. Luckily I worked at open-minded firms and they listened. “
What can be difficult for women climbing the ladder in the fields of finance and investing is starting at a certain entry level. “If you take a job and work your way up, people have difficulty adjusting to the person who started answering phones who is now an associate,” DeMasi says.
She knows this story firsthand.
“I was working at a French private equity firm and I helped them set up their office in New York,” DeMasi says. Fluent in French, she liked her job and they offered to help her with taking her exams to start as an investment specialist.
“This one (client) who knew me as the person who got coffee, then when I was the one helping raise equity for him, he could not make that leap,” she explains.
“We were at a lunch with potential investors and no matter what he needed, he would say to me, ‘Can you get me the mayo?’ or ‘Can you take away these pickles?’ That was the most stark time.”
DeMasi adds, “I had gotten from A to B and I would always be the person who moves the pickles for him.”
Working on gender equity in leadership and encouraging companies in the Zevin portfolios to do so as well is a goal that matches perfectly with her professional and personal mission.
“We’re advocating specific issues to change policy at corporations to give better benefits and opportunities to all.” She adds, “I will do whatever I can with clarity and ability to reach this goal. It’s going to take everybody on all levels.”
Connecting with Take The Lead for a global day of action makes perfect sense to DeMasi. “We are constantly faced with the hurdle about why we can’t do things. But it’s better if we start instead with the idea, how do we work together to get there.“
Learn more about how you can work toward gender parity and fairness in leadership at Take The Lead Day November 14, a global day of action for leadership parity. Register for an event or host your own. Sign up and register here.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com