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A career in investments – Calling more women

Just 11.8% of portfolio managers in Citywire’s 16,353 strong global database are female, according to the Citywire Alpha Female Report 2021. While this number increased slightly year on year, it is clear that the investment industry is still male-dominated.

Women already working in the industry feel passionate about attracting more women into the asset management space. This Women’s Month, Sanlam Investments’ women share some advice for those considering – or starting off in – a career in investments.

Natasha Narsingh, Head of Absolute Returns, Sanlam Investments

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“When it comes to being a woman in a male-dominated profession, what’s important is ‘holding your own’ at the table. It doesn’t mean you have to be aggressive; true strength and resilience don’t require aggression but it is important for other professional women to understand that.

“Women who are moving forward in their careers also need to take other women on the journey with them, by making time for mentorship and giving back. When we become leaders, we need to be sure that we recognise the quiet strength in other women, and encourage them by backing them and offering constant and positive reinforcement. We need to make them aware that this is a strength not a weakness and that we don’t have to compete or overcompensate.”

Vanessa van Vuuren, Portfolio Manager and Equity Analyst, Sanlam Investments

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“I would encourage every young woman out there who is passionate about and attracted to the world of investment management to explore this in full – and to chase this dream as hard as she can. It is an extremely fulfilling career, where we learn new things daily and are privileged to deal with plenty of stimulating intellectual challenges. Women can participate in this industry as effectively as men can, making their mark and achieving exceptional productivity and performance. It should be emphasised that the choice to have children can be accommodated and successfully managed and need not be a reason to avoid this career, should one desire this path. We need to encourage as many young women as possible to enter this industry to generate more of an equilibrium in the investment industry.”

Wandile Mhlanga, Client Services Team Leader, Sanlam Collective Investments

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“Watching the ‘Big Shot’ is a great example of how young women can enter into the investment profession. Yes, the movie is dominated by males, however, the concept is to be confident in everything. Sheryl Sandberg talks about how careers are a jungle gym not a ladder. Ladders are very limiting and the only way one can move is up and down. When careers are like a jungle gym, there is more room to move anywhere and everywhere.

“Women need to shift from thinking, “I am not ready to do that” to thinking, “I want to do that – and I will learn by doing it”. Women need to start taking risks, choosing growth, challenging themselves and asking/going for promotions. These are all important elements of managing our careers as women, not only in the investment space but in all the industries. One of the most common ways a woman can give up her power is by thinking she does not have any.”

Manka Sebastian, Junior Portfolio Manager, Sanlam Properties

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“There is no better time than now. Financial education has never been more democratised than now. If you have a resilient growth mindset, the investment world and everything in it is yours for the taking.”

Karen Wentzel, Head of Annuities, Sanlam Corporate

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“In the last two months, with in-person conferences and meetings back on the agenda, I noted a few more young and influential females on the stage and in leadership positions. However, looking at boardrooms, CEOs and decision makers, the gender imbalance still exists. And the pandemic exacerbated the gender divide – of the three million job losses during the 2020 lockdowns in South Africa, two million were women.

“Recently, one of my male friends explained the female ‘imposter syndrome’ to me. This is defined as ‘bright, capable, accomplished women who doubt they have earned their success, who feel that their success and achievements are a result of mere luck. They are concerned that they will be ‘found out’ and will be ousted as an imposter.’ He made me realise that what I see on a daily basis actually has a name. I am surrounded by very talented women, but still see that a lot of them suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’.

“I believe that as women, we should encourage each other to realise our true talents and share these with one another on platforms like the Women in Finance Network, for example. We need to share our feelings with other women, stop comparing ourselves to other people, use social media moderately, write down our abilities and refuse to let anyone nor anything hold us back from what we want to achieve.”

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