5 takeaways from women leaders in the industry

A panel of high-profile women in the financial advice business offers tips for success

Jun 21, 2017 @ 1:00 pm

By Greg Iacurci

A panel of female executives in the financial advice business on Monday discussed their unique experiences in the industry during the Women's Forum: Focus on Leadership, co-sponsored by InvestmentNews and the Investment Program Association's Women's Initiatives Network.

Here are some of the themes that emerged during that wide-ranging discussion, which took place in New York.

Embrace challenges and opportunity, even when it seems daunting.

"I think one of the things we women are not as good at is being confident that if we don't know 100% of it, we don't want to be aggressive and say, 'I can do it, I can do it.' But I guarantee you most of this stuff isn't rocket science and you can learn. It's something we all need to learn to do a better job of," said Sherri Schugart, CEO of the core fund, REIT and BDC group at Hines, a global real estate investment, development and management firm.

Accepting or volunteering for new employment opportunities provides a broader perspective of a business, which helped Ms. Schugart attain her current leadership position, she said.

Having a mentor, whether man or woman, is important.

"Don't worry about if you're working for a man or woman. The only thing that matters is if you work for someone who cares about you," said Lisa Dolly, CEO of Pershing.

Christine Nigro, vice chairman at AXA Advisors, said women are typically much more hesitant about asking senior members in an organization if they'll talk to you.

"Don't be closed out of those rooms because [you ask yourself], 'Why would the chief counsel have time for me?'" Ms. Nigro said. "You'd be stunned. They'll say yes."

Don't tolerate sexist behavior.

"There's nothing more insulting than being described as a good female something," Ms. Dolly said, providing the example of being called a good female portfolio manager. "I want to be known as a good whatever-role-I'm-filling."

"You don't have to be oppressive or abrasive or anything, but I think you should call out behavior that shouldn't be tolerated," Ms. Nigro said.

For example, as a rule with Ms. Nigro's staff, if a colleague uses the word "girl" she stops proceedings and asks, "What girl?"

Be confident. Speak up.

"Be confident," Nancy Fahmy, managing director and head of alternative investments at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "Speak up, and ask for what you want. If you don't ask, you might not get it."

Balance means different things to different people.

"Balance means something different to every woman," Trisha Miller, CEO of Carey Financial.

"I try and be present wherever I am," Ms. Nigro said. "So, if I am at home, then I try to really be at home, whatever that is … When I'm at work, I really try to be present at work."

Ms. Fahmy recommended outsourcing activities that don't add much value to daily life. For example, using an online service to purchase groceries can free up valuable time outside of work.

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