Jordan Belfort AKA the Wolf of Wall Street is having a difficult month. The former stockbroker, jailed in 1999 for defrauding investors of millions, is now a motivational speaker, travelling the world teaching ethical persuasion, sales and marketing. But Belfort clashed with two female presenters on an Australian talk show recently, ahead of an upcoming speaking event he’s doing in the country, when one of them called him “a thief”.
Belfort was, needless-to-say, unhappy about that, but it highlights that you can’t simply shrug off a reputation - something the world’s investment and asset management industry knows all too well… thanks, in large part no doubt, to Belfort.
Belfort may well have reformed, but his story (a book, film and stage production) entitled ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ has long-living and wide-reaching implications for the investment world – especially when it comes to encouraging women to take careers in the sector.
Long story short, the investment industry wants and needs women, yet struggles to attract them because of a persistent, all-be-it now out-dated, reputation that the industry is one of male privilege, excess and greed.
“The gender diversity gap in finance and investment is closing but women remain under-represented in the most senior and best-rewarded roles both in Scotland and across the UK,” explains Future Asset Chair, Susan Anderson. That’s a missed opportunity for women but also for the industry, given women’s leadership is linked to ‘better overall financial performance and reduced incidences of fraud, insider trading and other unethical practices,’ according to the IFC 2019.
And that’s why, this week I was presenting at the Future Asset Conference in Glasgow - designed to encourage high school girls in Scotland to consider investment careers – because, as Amanda Young, Head of Global ESG Investment Research, at Aberdeen Standard Investments beautifully articulated, "investment is a noble profession, offering fulfilling careers that help protect people’s futures."
I was among some extraordinary and inspiring female presenters including; Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson MP; BBC Scotland journalist, Laura Maciver, and the event’s host, The Young Money Blog founder, Iona Bain.
While the plethora of successful female speakers each made their individual contributions (mine offering practical tips to bolster professional confidence), the unifying message was clear: ‘You can do whatever you want – don’t let anything hold you back – especially your pre or misconceptions about finance and the investment industry.’
It was a full-on day, which deserves a 6,000 word long-read rather than a 600 word blog, but for the sake of practicing what I preach, ‘to be brief and stop talking before others stop listening’ - here are my top three highlights from what was a truly fabulous day:
LIGHTS: Lynne Lamont, Head of Charity and Institutional Clients (Scotland) at Brewin Dolphin not only passionately set out why investing matters – intriguingly illustrating her point with pictures of toilet rolls and Toblerone - but also demonstrated that you don’t have to be big in stature to have a big presence and make a big impact. High heels are not a prerequisite ladies – high confidence and presence are.
CAMERA: The message from Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, was to keep asking questions and not get derailed by others. How her speech wasn’t derailed by two intimidating photojournalists invading her personal space throughout her talk though, was a very impressive illustration of her point and professionalism. I’ve coached many leaders to present and you’d have to be exceptionally good to deliver your wise words, as she did, with all that distraction going on around you.
ACTION: Interactivity is a signature of all my work– whoever the audience - because experiential learning is so hugely powerful. Hundreds of young women came to my conference workshops, and were quick to spring into action and get involved. Their excitement and enthusiasm left me truly energised. Indeed, while they came to learn how to put their best foot forward, I left with the feeling it was I who had learnt the most.
The Future Asset Conference took place on 24th September 2019 at the University of Strathclyde Technology and Innovation Centre. Susan gifted her time to present three workshops based on her Make Your Mark programme, which she delivers for leading organisations – including Baillie Gifford who were one of the conference sponsors.
Susan Room is a former corporate leader, turned professional coach. One of the rare few qualified to provide voice and executive coaching, her unique blend of experience now sees her helping others feel, look and sound confident – positively improving their professional performance and happiness at work.