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Advice for emerging female asset managers – Part 2

Part 2: Direction, Drive and Differentiation

By Isabella Mnisi, Sector Head for Asset Management and Funds and Tarryn Lyall, Client Strategist for Global Securities Services at RMB

The asset management space remains largely male dominated as a result of a long legacy of stereotypes and gender biases, but increasingly women are pushing the boundaries. Gender diversity and inclusion are proven in numerous studies to lead directly to more creative, innovative and successful businesses, and the asset management industry is no exception.

Previously we discussed the importance of intentional mentorship in helping women to start and further develop their asset management careers, as well as the power of a supportive community in building confidence and igniting the spark of passion. Getting a foot in the door is one thing, and many businesses are eager to employ women as a tick-box exercise. Excelling and building a successful career is a different story altogether. Without the drive to grow and a clear direction of where you would like to be, it can be difficult to truly thrive.

Push yourself – nobody else will

One view that all of the inspirational women in asset management we spoke to shared, is that you need to push yourself if you want to succeed. The reality is that many women are given an opportunity as part of a check box exercise, which means that it can become very easy to simply coast along.

“As a black female, starting out in the asset management field at the time when I did, I got the sense that people needed me there – whether it was because of a BEE score or whatever other reason. Female asset managers are needed in firms, this is the reality,” says Nomathibana Okello, Managing Director and Portfolio Manager at Terebinth Capital. “The risk is, they are scared that if they push you in the context of learning, you will leave. They need you there for scorecard points. So, the key is pushing yourself. Have tough conversations. It is vital and worth it.”

Mishnah Seth, Head of Investments at ALUWANI Capital Partners, believes that relationships
are key, but that you also have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, give your best effort in all endeavours, and not be afraid to make mistakes.“Whenever an opportunity gets presented to me, I don’t overthink it. I just throw myself into it. There’s no such thing as mistakes. Everything is a lesson in life.”

Mapping out your path

Having the drive to succeed is crucial. However, it is just as important to have a clear direction of what you want your career path to look like. Mishnah believes that this path stems from having purpose and drive. “Always be part of something greater than yourself, and solve for a purpose bigger than yourself,” she says.

Nkareng Siwale, founder of Raindance Asset Management, an investment firm solely focused on sustainability investing, has brought her experience to bear in her own business, where she applies her own strong values to her investments for the benefit of clients. She believes that the ability to market yourself is key: “What is obvious in this industry is that senior positions are very male dominated. Female asset managers need to have a marketing strategy for themselves, and understand and leverage the value of powerful networks.”

Be a woman in a man’s world

If women do not advocate for themselves, with the support of their mentors, they will never reach the full potential of their success. “Women tend to go back to their default setting in corporate, which is typically sitting at the back while the men push themselves to the fore. We need to rise from this default mode and better demonstrate our work, our value and our thinking,” says Nkareng.

“You can do the minimum, and there will be minimum consequences, but this will not help you grow,” adds Nomathibana. “If you have the talent, use it, push yourself, find the right mentors and apply yourself to get to the next stage. Just lean into it.”

Women have immense value to add to the asset management world, and slowly but surely are beginning to carve out their place. Many studies back up the evidence that genderdiversity and inclusion lead to more successful businesses, and the mix of different viewpoints, experiences and strengths can lead to great things. However, it is important not to try and be a man in a man’s world, but to use the unique strengths of being a woman to carve your own niche.

This is the second part of a two-part series on inspirational women in asset management. Read Part 1 for insight on the importance of mentorship and community in establishing a successful asset management career.


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