Breaking through the misconceptions
4 February 2020
How did you become inspired to begin GAIN (Girls are Investors)?
GAIN is a charity that aims to inspire young women to pursue careers in investing. I co-founded GAIN with Tilly Franklin (Chief Investment Officer of the Cambridge University Endowment) and Charlotte Yonge (Fund Manager at Troy Asset Management) to really tackle the root cause of the diversity issue in the investment management industry. Having spent a lot of time doing graduate recruitment – where female application rates are around 20% – we realised that by the time students get to university many have already ruled out applying to the investment industry. Why is this? Most often due to a lack of role models, knowledge and because of many commonly held misconceptions.
In my view, investing is one of the most interesting and rewarding career opportunities out there. As an investment analyst, I get to meet and work with extraordinary people and travel the world, while at the same time support great causes. I’m constantly learning, and I’m given huge amounts of responsibility from a young age. GAIN’s purpose is to inform and inspire young women about these, and many other, benefits of investing as a career.
Do you have a five-year vision for the future of GAIN?
GAIN’s long-term objective is to raise the female application rate for entry-level investment jobs to 50% in ten years. How will we work to achieve this?
We have a strong and growing network of female role models who speak in high schools and universities across the UK. Our objective for this school year is to carry out more than 50 talks, hopefully reaching more than 5,000 young students. At maturity, we are targeting to reach more than 10,000 students per year.
I have been fortunate to work with many inspirational women and they have been instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in investing. However, the lack of female role models in the industry is a key issue – if you can’t see her, you can’t be her! We hope that these talks will help young women understand why others have joined and succeeded in the investment industry, how they secured their roles, and what motivates them to continue to excel.
In addition to our speaker’s programme, we hope to inform and inspire young women through our online resources, including our website (gainuk.org) and Instagram (@girlsareinvestors).
What has been the most challenging part, setting up the organisation?
GAIN is currently run by a team of enthusiastic volunteers, with other day-to-day jobs. One of the biggest challenges in setting up GAIN has definitely been balancing our ambitious goals with our limited time.
Thanks to strong support from individuals and corporate sponsors we are thrilled to be able to hire a full-time director in 2020. This person will be instrumental in shaping the future of GAIN and scaling our impact. If you know anyone who is passionate about the cause and is looking to maximise their personal impact by leading a young charity, please reach out!
Is there a piece of advice you would offer to first-time founders?
Build and leverage your network – it is the one most important thing women should do for their careers and when starting businesses, but seemingly aren’t. One of the most cited reasons why female executives do not advance is their lack of access to networks.
Our network of speakers of friends are at the very core of GAIN, and GAIN would not be the organisation it is today without the incredible enthusiasm and support of our community.
What would you say are the biggest misconceptions people have about working in the investment industry?
There are many misconceptions about the investment management industry and about what it takes to be a good investor.
At GAIN we are focused on breaking through the misconceptions that young women commonly have. One myth is that you have to have studied quantitative subjects at university and that you will spend your entire days “working in spreadsheets”. Investors come from a range of backgrounds and degrees, and the role in itself is one of the most diverse jobs out there. While there is certainly a numerical element to it, you spend just as much time researching industries, making judgements about business and evaluating people.
Another misconception is that investing is just about making “rich people richer”. Most investing jobs support great causes. Impact investing is an obvious route if contributing to society is your main aim, but more traditional investment firms also contribute to society – pension funds support people’s retirement, university endowments support teaching, and foundations support a range of charitable causes.
What advice would you give young girls who are aiming for a career in investment?
Read, read, read! There are countless interesting books on the topic of investing, ranging from thrilling tales about the markets to hands-on, educational books. Head over to GAIN’s website for our top picks.
What is something you’ve learned that you lean on daily?
Yoga – which is fundamentally about building a toolbox of ways to better deal with challenges – has helped me a lot in my career and I have realised that in many ways, yoga is also highly complementary to investing.
When I first started practising yoga about five years ago, I wanted it all. I wanted to be able to jump up into a headstand and take on the most advanced balances. Yoga has taught me to be more patient – to be able to do a headstand you need to start by building a strong core. It’s the same with investing, and with your career. It’s unhelpful to set arbitrary and unrealistic goals, and much more productive to focus on tangible, near-term objectives.
Is there something that has made a big difference in your life?
Being surrounded by smart people and learning from their way of thinking!