Advocating for more female portfolio managers in the asset management industry has been an ongoing, public mission for Kristi Mitchem, head of Wells Fargo Asset Management.
But it's been an uphill challenge — the percentage of female fund managers has actually slipped since 2008, according to Morningstar research.
When asked why on Bloomberg Television, Mitchem acknowledged unique challenges: Not enough women are represented in the academic arenas that produce finance professionals, while many women decide to pursue careers elsewhere.
"If you're a young woman coming into finance today, you don't see a lot of successful women portfolio managers that you can actually relate to," she said.
Mitchem, then, is a leading example of success, a Fulbright Scholar and Stanford Graduate School of Business grad who has steadily risen in the industry ranks.
Starting 17 years ago with Goldman Sachs, Mitchem went to BlackRock, where she served as managing director and head of its U.S. defined contribution business, then to State Street Global Advisors as the executive vice president and head of the Americas institutional client group, before assuming leadership at Wells last April.
“To make an impact on diversity and inclusion, I think you have to act from the head and the heart," she says. "Looking the issue from the head, you can see the data shows that more diverse decision-making in corporate America leads to substantively better operating performance — margin, revenue growth — really, it’s additive to any important financial measure. More diverse teams simply make better decisions."
Her commitment to diversity in the workplace includes membership of the Committee of 200, which gathers the world’s most successful women, entrepreneurs and corporate innovators. In March 2016, Mitchem was instrumental in the launch the SHE ETF, which invests primarily in U.S. large capitalization companies that exhibit gender diversity in their senior leadership positions.
She also is a member of the steering committee at Paradigm for Parity, a coalition of business leaders dedicated to addressing the leadership gender gap in corporate America. In addition, she is a Trustee with the Stanford Business School Trust, and an adviser for Davidson College's finance committee.
Outside of work, Mitchem and her husband donate to several charitable organizations and help to fund grants that support the advancement of women, in particular those affiliated at her alma mater, Davidson College, and those close to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she and her husband reside with their three daughters.
In her free time, Mitchem is an avid tennis player and has a passion for interior design. She also focuses a great deal of her time on her three teenage daughters.
"I am a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion because I want to create a better world for them. If I don’t have energy around this issue, what have I really taught them? I want them to learn to advocate for people in all marginalized groups and for themselves."