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You might find you are the only woman in the room, which might make it harder for you to want to speak up. My advice in that moment is to feel the fear and do it anyway. Know that you're not alone - your courage and your leadership will drive change.
Debbie McLean President, CAIA Foundation and Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, CAIA Association
I entered alternatives after spending the first half of my career in other industries. I’ve always had a passion for supporting women to be financially independent. Specifically, supporting women in their understanding of how to build wealth and to make good decisions about money.
Women are so severely underrepresented in finance, and in alternatives in particular. We absolutely need diverse thinking in these roles, where decisions about investment and wealth creation are being made. So, that was very much the driver for me to make a career decision to work in alternatives.
I think the most important thing to focus on is education and building your knowledge. This industry is changing so rapidly, so you’re going to need to keep learning and growing throughout your career.
I’d also say that this is very much a relationship-based industry, so it is essential to develop skills in connecting and building a network that can support, champion and mentor you as your career unfolds.
Finally, the reality is that there are few women at the top in alternatives. It is going to take time to change that. You will likely sometimes find yourself in a room and be the only woman there - that might make it harder for you to want to speak up. My advice in that moment is to feel the fear and do it anyway. Know that you’re not alone. Your courage, and your leadership, will drive change.
I think we see a lot of emphasis right now on increasing diversity, which is a focus on who is in the room. People seem less certain about how to create inclusive environments, which is really about how we embrace and engage each and every person in the room, so that their voices are heard.
Inclusion is harder to see – it is often something you don’t even think about, unless you’re being excluded. So, I would suggest people think about what exclusion looks like. For example, are people in your culture allowed to talk over others in meetings? Do leaders give credit for ideas to the wrong people? Is the loudest, strongest voice in the room dominating decision-making? These are the kinds of things that can be harmful to an inclusive culture, because you’re excluding the voices at the table.
I believe companies that mitigate that risk are going to be the ones that differentiate themselves and perform better, because their employees are being heard, they are being valued, and they feel that they can contribute to the best of their abilities.
A lot of people are still uncomfortable talking openly about diversity and inclusion. It can be scary and uncomfortable. But the thing is, most people have had a moment in life where they or a loved one have felt excluded, so tapping into that personal understanding of what that feels like, is a starting place.
I think in order to enact change, you’re going to have to start talking openly and honestly – and with empathy – about diversity and inclusion. Is that going to be uncomfortable? Absolutely. Might that be hard? Maybe. But when you do that, it begins to build trust and create stronger relationships. That will then lead to stronger, higher performing teams, which will create better outcomes for your business.
The Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association, founded in 2002, is the world leader in alternative investment education. Earning the CAIA Association Charter is the gateway to becoming a Member of the CAIA Association, a network of more than 10,000 investment leaders located in 95+ countries. CAIA Association also offers the Fundamentals of Alternative Investments® certificate program, a 20-hour, online course that provides a foundational understanding of alternative investing. Topics include portfolio construction, risk management, due diligence, hedge funds, private equity and real estate. Download the full description of the Fundamentals program here.