Diversity and Inclusion in Finance

Diversity and Inclusion in Finance

Sweta Singh admits that she fell into finance by chance: “You do something day in and day out, and then you fall in love with it. I think it is symbiotic — you enjoy your work, and then you pour more of yourself into it..”  

She discovered something in her found profession that has driven her to reach its pinnacle, though: empowerment. 

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Performance powers everything

Singh knows firsthand the importance of perseverance and merit in an industry that can be fiercely competitive. With a background in central bank theory and extensive experience as a research analyst, Singh worked her way up to become a portfolio manager and a leader in her field. But it wasn’t without its obstacles.

“Our field is really based on three pillars: research, trading, and portfolio management. In that research space, you find a lot of women; but, as the stakes become bigger in trading and portfolio management, you find fewer and fewer.”

Singh attributes this to an exodus of women leaving the industry in their 30s and 40s. As a working mother, her advice is to push through, though: “I think if you enjoy doing this, you have to refuse to get sidelined. Juggling between family and work, it becomes even more important for your work to be meaningful and impactful. Let your work speak for you. At the end of the day, finance is a business, and the bottom line is a huge driver for any business. If you are investing wisely and generating returns, no one is going to shut you down. It becomes less about your gender and more about your merit.”

Singh argues that if underrepresented individuals can demonstrate that they have good ideas that add value, they can build credibility and ascend within the industry. For Singh, this is what makes the financial markets a “great equalizer” — anyone can succeed if they have the skills and the drive to perform. That’s why Singh stayed the course, pushed through, and scaled the industry to become a portfolio manager herself.

“I knew I wanted to move into the space of running money because that is where your decisions have bigger consequences. It’s also where you’re judged on your decisions in real time. I want ownership of my failures and my success. We are in the business of managing money, so I want to manage money. It wasn’t a gender thing. It was: ‘I am good at this, and I want to do this.’”

Work ethic isn't enough on it's own

Singh is quick to point out, though, that work ethic on its own isn’t enough. Support and mentorship were huge accelerants to her career, which is why it’s so important to her to pay it forward.

“I have sisters that work in tech, and I think my experience with motherhood was way better than theirs. There are always snide remarks; there’s always fear that when you come back from having a child, projects will be taken away from you. But I had 3 months of paid maternity leave before this was widely talked about, and I meet very few women who get that. Of course I endured snide remarks and heard that hiring a woman was a liability because she could get pregnant. But when it mattered, I had 3 full paid months — that mattered more.”

“If you were the recipient of a good maternity policy and you are now at a company where you get to make decisions, then pay it forward. You put the policy in the HR handbook, and you make that change.”

The same is true for mentoring. Singh credits her now-colleague Chris Ryon with empowering her to take the next step in her career.

"I had the good fortune of sitting next to Chris Ryon who showed me the ropes. It was the first time in my life that I had a mentor. He never cared if I was a man or a woman, he just gave me a project, and I got it done.”

That experience helped propel Singh to mentor others attempting to replicate her career path and success.

“I love working with women in the industry because there is this narrative that things are unfair, and of course that’s true. But what is the alternative? Are you just going to not play the game because you weren’t invited? Or are you going to push the door open, and be like ‘I’m here, and I’m going to play.’”

“The bottom line is that I am the recipient of all the women in this industry that came before me — I stand on their shoulders. The portfolio managers, the traders, the research analysts… these amazing women in this industry who were phenomenal at what they do. So now that I am in a position to do something about it, I can.”

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