Interview: International Women’s Day 2022
At Quoniam, diversity and inclusion are an integral part of our corporate culture. In an interview, we asked our CEO Nigel Cresswell and our CFO and CCO Silke Weiser-Walther what the International Women’s Day on 8 March means to them personally and what Quoniam is doing to promote equal opportunities.
What does the International Women’s Day mean to you? Why do we need this day?
Silke Weiser-Walther: In Germany, as a woman, I can make my own decisions about my education and my body. I perceive the way men and women treat each other as very respectful. This is not something that can be taken for granted. We are privileged to live in a liberal democratic country. In many parts of the world, equality is still a long way off – not only in terms of gender, but also on dimensions such as gender identity, sexual orientation or background. As long as this is the case, International Women’s Day plays an important role because it brings the topic of equality to our attention regularly.
Nigel Cresswell: The International Women’s Day is a reminder that we are simply not where we want to be. Otherwise, we would not need this day in the first place. There is still a long way to go to reach real gender equity. It is good to have a day like this to challenge ourselves and remember we need to do more. For me personally, the International Women’s Day leads to a period of reflection. I have been incredibly fortunate to work with several women in senior positions who really encouraged, developed and challenged me in my career. I have benefited so much from their leadership and the cognitive and gender diversity. And it concerns me to think of the challenges and barriers that a lot of people, especially women, still have in terms of their opportunities just because of how they were born.
Silke: We have achieved legal equality in Germany. But we still have to work on the practical side. In our discussions, we keep coming back to the issue of reconciling family and career. When I think back to the beginning of my professional career, a lot has already happened. Back then, it was unthinkable for a man to take parental leave. Today, we’ve come a long way. I am pleased that at Quoniam, too, it’s becoming more and more natural for parents to take parental leave and better balance family and career – without the unjustified worry of a possible career setback.
As a member of the management, how do you see your role and influence on the topic gender equality?
Nigel: In my role, I feel a high responsibility for the culture of our firm. Gender equality is only one dimension, and all aspects of diversity and inclusion (D&I) are important to us. D&I is a crucial part of our corporate culture, but these topics will not develop further on its own. That is why we are happy to have Camilla Udd, our Head of Culture, Diversity and Change, on board as additional support on these topics. She accompanies us with her expertise and experience in the field of D&I and culture on the path we have already started. The fact that she directly reports to me shows how seriously we take D&I for many different reasons: First and foremost, it is simply the right thing to do. But of course, we can also profit immensely from the benefits of cognitive diversity in our business. Cognitive diversity leads to less groupthink, improves decision-making and enables firms to better respond to their stakeholders. The absolute baseline of this is making sure that we avoid any discriminatory behaviour and that we at Quoniam enable equal opportunities to everyone. Going beyond that, we need to recognise that may also mean providing additional support to those who otherwise might not get the same opportunities.
“It is our goal to view diversity and inclusion not just as part of our CSR strategy, but as an integral aspect of our corporate culture that we live without giving it much thought.”
CFO & CCO, Managing Partner
Silke: Ultimately, it is up to us as management to ensure that words become deeds. That we don’t just have hype, but establish sustainable, functioning processes that ensure equality. There are many starting points that we can promote directly. For example, I am committed to making our recruiting process more inclusive. I can directly push for us to offer more training on D&I and to establish the topic as a leadership competence. In addition, I am convinced that the younger our employees get, the more natural D&I becomes. For my daughter, who will be 20 this year, D&I is no longer an issue because it is simply lived in her generation. That’s exactly our goal: to see D&I not just as part of our CSR strategy, but as an integral part of our corporate culture that we live without giving it much thought.
Nigel: Exactly. This is one goal of the purpose-led culture that we strive towards. Part of our purpose and company mission is to „nurture a culture in which the best talents collaborate within a diverse and inspiring environment.” We want to establish this kind of culture and make it an integral part of who we are and what defines us at Quoniam.
What are the specific challenges in our industry related to gender and equality?
Nigel: The asset management industry still has a long way to go in terms of creating diverse workforces. In Germany, this is even more pronounced. In the newest Citywire Alpha Female Report, you can see that Germany lags behind the global average with only 6% women in fund management. This shows that we have failed so far in making our industry attractive and open to women. There are a bunch of reasons for this: hiring practices, reliance on old-school networks, asking for very specific qualifications etc. In the future, we should be more open to diverse backgrounds. It is certainly not enough to look at this matter and say: “That’s what the population looks like, we have our fair share of women.” We need to do more than that and change that population within the industry.
“The International Women’s Day is just the tip of the iceberg. More important is what happens during the other 364 days of the year.”
CEO, Managing Partner
But what can we at Quoniam – as a relatively small organisation – do to foster gender equality?
Nigel: Just to name a few examples: We will make sure to actively address and mitigate possible biases within the hiring process. And that we exert broader influence to change our industry – by engaging in initiatives such as Charta der Vielfalt (German Diversity Charter), promoting the industry to women and ensuring that the barriers of the past do not exist anymore.
Silke: We have already done a lot in the past to help reconcile care work and career. Among other things, we provide organisational and financial support for childcare and enable flexible working time models. To be part of a larger movement, as Nigel mentions, we joined the Charta der Vielfalt in 2019 and carry out an annual campaign for German Diversity Day. It is important that we integrate the topic even more in our business and daily work – for example, by establishing diversity training as an elementary part of our competence development or by supporting childcare as well as caring for senior relatives, which is often done by women.
Nigel: In the end, the International Women’s Day is just the tip of the iceberg. More important is what happens during the other 364 days of the year. Sure, the percentage of women in Quoniam’s investment area is above the industry average with 25%, but we cannot look at this as “success” relative to industry statistics, but instead acknowledge that we also have room for improvement and need to drive positive change. We recognise that we need to be part of something bigger to affect broader change. And, of course, we are always looking to improve our own house to constantly guarantee an environment and practices that create real gender equity and a diverse and inclusive culture.