Mar 27, 2023
Margaret Franklin on rebranding finance as a career for women
Margaret Franklin, CEO of CFA, on integrating new tech and Ai into the practice: Industry Insiders
As a young woman in her 20s, Margaret Franklin jumped from a marketing job to a finance gig, and she discovered exciting threads in the career – it was a blend of economics, math, geopolitics and what’s now known as behavioural finance, or how human emotions influence financial markets.
“I didn't know the difference between a stock and a bond and probably could have cared less,” she told BNNBloomberg.ca in an interview this month. “As I understood the business better, I thought it was immensely fascinating.”
She decided to become a chartered financial analyst and hasn’t looked back since.
Early in her career, Franklin said she didn’t notice systemic bias against women holding her back from opportunities, but she noticed female peers dropping off as the years went on.
“As I progressed through my career, and particularly in my later 30s and early 40s, you start to see that there are just no women around you,” she said, recalling that people opted out after working hard for little advancement.
Now, as president and CEO of the CFA Institute, Franklin is turning her attention to growing diversity in the finance field, with a special focus on attracting young women and retaining them throughout their careers.
PROMOTING A FINANCE CAREER TO WOMEN
Finance has been slow to increase its gender diversity, according to research by the CFA Institute that found women made up less than half of investment professionals worldwide. Franklin said an image problem is partly to blame.
Other fields like STEM and medicine have been able to paint a picture of the career for women and convey sense of purpose behind the work, Franklin said.
The finance and investing sector has done a poorer job of that, she said. It’s often associated with macho Hollywood representations from films like "The Wolf of Wall Street."
“Women generally don't relate to that very well,” she said. “There are ways for us to describe the nobility of the jobs and to bring that to life much better.”
She’s also keen to promote finance jobs to people earlier in life, around their late teens when they are considering career paths and post-secondary options.
Franklin and another woman colleague launched an initiative a decade ago to study gender diversity within the finance field, in a bid to better understand the issue and use the information to make change.
The Women in Investment Management Initiative has since published several studies, and has seen more than 100 companies sign on to a diversity, equity and inclusion code it developed.
Franklin said she sees the improving workplace gender equality as a blueprint for increasing other forms of diversity in the workplace. With more focus on that work within the corporate world, she sees a greater shift on the horizon.
“I'm quite hopeful that over the next five to 10 years, we really will materially change it,” she said.
Franklin took on the CEO role at the CFA Institute just before COVID-19 hit.
The event tested the global organization, which suddenly was unable to administer the licensing exams that make up 85 per cent of its revenue.
The CFA Institute made it through the first few bumpy years of the pandemic, and Franklin said her team-focused leadership style and experiences as a working mother helped her be a stronger leader through the crisis.
“I was very much able to bring my whole self to this role,” Franklin said.
Now, she’s still assessing the major workplace shifts the pandemic brought about.
Hybrid work is here to stay at her organization, but Franklin said she’s still figuring out how to ensure people working remotely aren’t inadvertently passed over for opportunities.
Research has suggested women benefited from work-from-home arrangements. But Franklin said she’s also wary of the unintended consequence of working women, who tend to take on more caregiving roles at home, potentially being overloaded with responsibilities and unable to succeed as a result.
“I think we're only figuring out now how to operate so that the day isn't endless.”
YOUNG WORKERS AND ETHICAL PRIORITIES
Franklin sees the new age cohort of working professionals bringing strong ethical priorities to their work – and that gives the finance field an opportunity to rebrand.
“Early entrants now, they really want to knit their practice and business, what they do, with purpose,” she said. “I think we can do a very good job of painting a picture of why finance and investment in particular is can be a really exciting career with purpose and with good career prospects.”
The focus on ESG – or ethical, social and corporate government priorities in investing – will be “a very good thing” for diversity in the finance and investing sector, Franklin said, because it appeals to the new crop of young talent.
Franklin feels strongly that designing workplaces that are more accommodating for women and working mothers will make their spaces more appealing to Gen Z and millennial candidates, who have “a different expectation of the workplace,” and even older workers who are semi-retired but want to keep contributing in new ways.
“By solving some of those structures, you actually create structures that appeal to these new emerging career interests,” she said.