Why Finance Can’t Afford a Dearth of Female Leadership

Companies say they are highly committed to gender diversity, but how is that bearing out? According to the comprehensive 2019 Women in the Workplace study, the percentage of women working at the senior levels has increased slightly but companies need to focus their efforts earlier in the pipeline to make real progress. The study identified that the biggest obstacle that women face is the first step up to manager.

In the finance and investing world, those numbers are even worse. According to Investor’s Business Daily, only 19.4 percent of women serve in a managerial role or higher, while women make up a full 46.9 percent of the industry’s demographic.

Where do we think we can go as an industry if we keep the status quo? More importantly, what kind of opportunities are we missing with this lack of gender equity? 

The current ratio of women leading in the c-suite in corporate America is 1-in-5, and only 38 percent of workers at the manager level are women, according to a comprehensive study by Even though efforts have improved to hire females at senior levels, the pipeline of women to hire or promote from manager-level decreases. What happens to the talent pool for the C-suite at that point? According to Lean In, if companies “promoted and hired to first-level manager at the same rates as men, we will add one million more women to management in corporate America over the next five years”.

For women, progress has been made but there is still room for improvement. So, we choose to do better. At Casoro Group, our property management firm CLEAR Property Management, and our multifamily REIT Upside Avenue, diversity is a business priority. We recognize that women make our company strong. Out of our entire team, women make up:

  • 60 percent of our C-Suite
  • 62 percent of Director and upper management level
  • 75 percent of our accounting team
  • 88 percent of our community operations leaders

Our company is unique in the realm of finance and investing. We purposely work to bring women in the door, recognizing that they bring tremendous strength to our company’s performance.

The World Economic Forum concluded in their 2017 study that closing the gender gap would create greater stability in the banking system, improve economic growth, and pave the way to more-effective monetary and fiscal policy. A key Knight Foundation study published last year stated that diversity has shown to provide economic and social benefits across a multitude of fields and industries, including finance and investing, although there is a huge deficit in women leaders within the finance world.

So yes, we’re already ahead of the curve, but we know challenges remain across the board for women in our industry.

Several hiring practices I recommend to ensure diverse representation include reaching out to highly-rated business schools and HBCUs to actively recruit female and minority graduates, as well as training and promoting talented women and minorities from within.

Hiring and developing more female leaders is one thing. Creating a company culture that encourages women to thrive is another. At Casoro and Upside Avenue, we have seen great success in recruiting and retain female leadership by implementing the following practices:

Give access to senior leaders. In a male-dominated industry, we recognize that female voices are often drowned out or ignored. We actively work to bring all voices to the table by operating as a flat organization. This makes us intentional in hearing good ideas from women and men at all levels of the company. It also creates greater agility so we can own and launch good ideas quickly.

Be teachable. One of our five key company values it to Be Teachable. This applies equitably across all levels within the company, and we emphasize being willing to receive new ideas and constructive feedback from anyone, whether it is someone senior to us or junior to us. Having a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds gives us a wealth of new ideas that have helped us make better investment and operating decisions.

Be supportive. We actively work to make sure our employees are supported in their roles and enabled to pursue their career goals. We do this by having clearly defined responsibilities that are evaluated on an annual basis to include new tasks or skills that fit with each person’s current and future career track. We also have weekly one-on-ones with managers and team members where team members are empowered to share about current opportunities and challenges they face and managers offer constructive feedback. Our goal is to grow the whole person, knowing that as each person develops their professional, social, and leadership acumen, our company will reap the benefits of an empowered and confident workforce.

Allow flexibility. Our company does not have a traditional corporate environment, and this is by design. We understand that life and family issues arise and we make sure our team knows they can take the time they need to deal with whatever life brings their way.

At Casoro/Upside Avenue, we work hard to achieve equity as opposed to equality. There is an important difference here. To achieve equity, we strive to give our team members what they need to be successful and make sure diverse voices and perspectives have a seat at the table. Most companies try to achieve equality – the same number of voices, equalized opportunities. We recognize that not everyone is starting from the same place, so equality is not a reasonable goal. When we work toward equity instead, we are ensuring that people from very diverse backgrounds are able to bring their best ideas to the table, so we achieve a wealth of creativity, innovation and progress that we couldn’t get otherwise.

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