When asked how male leaders can better support their female counterparts in the workplace, Kathryn Koch, head of client portfolio management and business strategy of Goldman Sachs Asset Management's fundamental equities business, responded: "One thing you can do is have daughters."
It was the last discussion topic at NICSA's 2016 general membership meeting in Boston; however it was the beginning of a larger debate within the nonprofit organization about workplace diversity and the damaging treatment of women, which many attest still exists today.
The panel of women leaders — and recipients of Money Management Executive'sTop Women in Asset Management Awards earlier this year — attempted to shed light on many of the common myths about women that still exist.
Koch suggested that male leaders that have daughters effectively "changes the lens and perspective as to some of the challenges."
"I think you can be a great boss if you have no children, but I do think there is something particularly helpful about having daughters and understanding that experience a little more," she added.
In a meeting that followed the organization's annual assembly, NICSA members revisited the topic of gender diversity, as well as the need for additional discussions on overall workplace discrimination, according to NICSA President Jim Fitzpatrick.
"I would say that the consensus of the board is that it should be a staple of NICSA programming going forward," he said.
While it is understood that it's too tall of an order to ask every male industry leader to have a daughter in order to understand the plight of women in the industry, panelists said there are more practical solutions that can help.
"Technology certainly helps," explained Marlene DeLuca, a NICSA panelist and the chief marketing officer for Americas fund management at J.P. Morgan Investment Management.
As many firms adopt new technology, Koch says women, and also men that have children to care for now have the option to work from home.
"I leave for work in the morning, before my kids are awake, and I am lucky if I get dinner when I get home" Koch said. "But I am also able to work remotely one or two days a week; and that changes everything."
FACT OR FICTION?
Panelists worked to dispel several common workplace myths about the performance of men and women.
Asha Mehta, the director of responsible investing at Acadian Asset Management, said that whether it is the disparity between their skills in mathematics, investments or risk adversity, the cards have been "stacked against women."
"Research shows that when you look at funds run by women, versus funds run by men - and there are not a lot of samples so you can't say it is statistically significant - the funds run by women have actually outperformed," Mehta said. "So let's call that even." Including women into your discussions also adds diversity, she added.
Koch said that while many people say they care about diversity, she is not convinced that everyone implicitly believes it.
"It is something that I would encourage people to really think about before self-selecting for their organization," she said.
BUILDING A MORE DIVERSE FUTURE
Following the meeting last week, Fitzpatrick said that gender diversity has been something NICSA has focused on for years; and an area where he says there will always be room for improvement.
"Diversity, broader than just a gender issue, is something that our entire membership is focused on," Fitzpatrick said.
In response to the panel NICSA now plans on providing the same platform to engage the industry's up-and-coming workforce, he said.
"We are in the process of putting together our program for the strategic leadership conference in January, and I am sure that we will have a panel under the diversity umbrella," he said. "This time we may target Millennials."