Insights from Marie Chandoha

Chief Executive Officer

Women in Financial Services – Power in the Pipeline

May 2017

Here’s something you should know about me – my entry into financial services wasn’t really that deliberate. I feel like I entered the industry somewhat accidentally. There were signs of an interest in finance when I was young. I liked to play monopoly. I loved going to the bank with my mother. I was interested in how money worked. And I was really good at math, and later on thought finance would be a good way to apply those skills in a career. But I also know a lot of women who work in financial services, yet never imagined they would do so when they were young.

The topic of evolving the complexion of the financial industry is something that I think about regularly. The complexion of the industry continues to be out of kilter with the complexion of the clients we serve, and our nation. White men still represent the majority of those raising their hands to enter the financial services industry. Changing the complexion of our industry begins with building a more diverse pipeline.

Last week I spent time at the University of Akron at a symposium dedicated to building a more diverse pipeline in financial services and shared the following observations about what I believe can make a difference:

  • First, we need to spread the word. We need to get the word out that this is a great career path for diverse candidates. A recent college graduate in my organization told me she had no idea this career path even existed. She felt she had landed in her job by accident, similar to my experience. We are never going to change the complexion of this industry, or build a pipeline by accident. Those of us in the industry need to reach out more consistently to universities, other partners, and career influencers to get the word out. I have been impressed by organizations like Girls Who Invest (a non-profit Charles Schwab Investment Management, Inc. sponsors) that spread the word among college women about careers in portfolio management, provide training and help those women enter internships. Internships focused on bringing in more diverse candidates are also a terrific way to spread the word.
  • Secondly, as we start recruiting, we need to build the confidence of women and other minorities that this career path is within reach. People who experience bias in their lives often feel their confidence erode over time through their daily experiences. Being in this industry for over 30 years, I continue to see a confidence gap between men and women in the workplace, which I believe starts well before they ever enter the workforce. Studies show women tend not to apply for jobs unless they have the majority of the skills listed in the job description, where men will apply for jobs even if they have only a few of the skills required.
  • Finally, we need to support our diverse candidates. Sometimes, we attract diverse candidates but they end up dropping out. I think firm culture plays a key role in fostering diversity. Diversity can thrive in respectful and inclusive cultures. I frequently see our diverse candidates asking questions about the culture because they know it makes such a big difference in their ultimate success. Supporting diverse candidates through mentorship can also be effective. For me, I had many advisors along the way who helped me through difficult situations and made a big difference in my career. And I am so grateful for that.

One thing that I do find exciting is the number of women who have risen up the ranks over the last decade. When I started in this business, there were few female role models in executive positions. And when there were, they didn’t seem to stay in their roles long. Today, in the Bay Area, there are four women CEOs of asset management companies. At Charles Schwab, we have five female executives on our executive leadership team. I can’t tell you how many times a woman has come up to me and said, “Wow, you really give me hope that I can progress in my career.” The fact that women are rising through the ranks as never before serves as an incredible beacon to young women considering their career choices. If you can see it, you can be it.

Those of us fortunate enough to see beyond its complexion today know what a truly great industry this is. At the end of the day, the industry exists to serve others. Let’s rally together and help young women and minorities find their way within the financial services industry so we can serve the clients of the future in the best way possible.

Marie Chandoha
President and CEO, Charles Schwab Investment Management

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