By Lisa Kirschner, head of research at Richard Bernstein Advisors (RBA)
In the nearly 3 decades since I began my career in finance, there have been many positive changes for women as the workplace evolves. I was very fortunate to have begun my career in Merrill Lynch Research, which was years ahead of its peers in its support of women. Internally, the culture was highly competitive with an intense focus on achievement, so although women analysts were a minority group within this male dominated industry, the emphasis was on doing the best analyses we could. Our shared passion for that work helped overcome many biases, leading to results-driven teamwork. Of course, there were still numerous barriers for women – difficulties getting meetings with top clients or as speakers at high level conferences, press opportunities and availability of emergency daycare are a few examples that come to mind. To address these issues for its growing team of women analysts, Merrill Research, under the leadership of two dedicated and powerful role models, Rosemary Berkery and Candace Browning, created significant support systems for women’s success throughout the late 90’s and 00’s. These ranged from training/workshops to build confidence and speaking skills, mentorship programs, dedicated leadership speaking/networking events for women analysts with institutional clients, and temporary daycare facilities for childcare emergencies. Each of these had a considerable impact on my own growth and success.
Now, with increasing mentorship responsibilities, I believe it is not only vital to provide guidance and strive to be an admirable role model for the next generation of investment professionals, but to acknowledge the substantial amounts of work necessary to bring about not just gender diversity, but all diversity. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Break the Bias” and as we reflect on it, we must take responsibility and make lasting contributions to an equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace for all. The benefits of diversity in fostering creativity and innovation, enabling “outside the box” problem solving and enhancing corporate and team camaraderie have been well documented, the “Why” has been answered, now we all need to do the work necessary to achieve the goal.
At RBA, we are doing just that. We have a longstanding culture of mutual respect and policies that are transparent and allow flexibility – an environment in which everyone’s views and ideas are heard. This fosters collaboration and creativity. We thrive when valued both individually and as a team. Our inclusive culture has helped increase diversity at the firm at many levels through promotions and new hires over the past several years.
Furthermore, in 2020 the firm announced the funding of the Richard Bernstein Advisors Scholarship at Spelman College to help promote diversity at RBA and in the overall asset management industry. Spelman College, a women’s college based in Atlanta, is the #1 ranked Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the country according to the 2021 US News & World Report ranking.
“Through this innovative combination of scholarship and internship, we hope to immediately play a leading and significant role enhancing diversity in the asset management industry,” said Richard Bernstein, CEO & CIO of RBA.
It is time for us all to commit to making diversity and inclusion a reality.