William Blair Spotlights Program to Increase Women in Asset Management

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Stephanie Braming and Seema Hingorani



More than 100 people attended the 5th annual Invest For Kids breakfast hosted by William Blair at headquarters in Chicago on July 10 with this year's focus on increasing the number of women professionals in the asset management industry.

Invest For Kids, a 10-year-old group of investment professionals that hosts an annual investment conference and raises funds to support programs aiding Chicago children, organized the event.

The theme was "Building the Pipeline of Women in Investment Management" and the discussion featured an innovative mentoring program developed by New York-based fund manager Seema Hingorani.

William Blair's global head of investment management Stephanie Braming moderated the discussion, emphasizing how important mentoring is for women of all ages in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Braming became head of the firm's investment management group last year, working her way up the ranks after joining the firm in 2004 as an equity specialist.

"From a women’s perspective I always felt if I do a really good job someone will notice. In my case someone did notice but that’s because I had an advocate," Braming told the gathering. "So you need to have those mentors and firms need to figure out how to promote mentorship programs, whether it's formal or informal."

Girls Who Invest Formed in 2015

A big believer in cultural diversity in finance, Hingorani described how she formed her program, Girls Who Invest, three years ago. The aim was to identify, mentor and place college-age women in asset management internships with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of women in the industry. 

Hingorani told the breakfast gathering that she got the idea while visiting with investment managers who sought her business when she was managing a $160 billion pension fund for the City of New York. Many of the investment firms were very successful and high-profile. But when she asked to see their org chart and saw few if any women, she asked why.

"'Because we don't get resumes from women,'" Hingorani said of the most common reply she received, drawing some laughter from the gathering which included professionals from about 70 Chicago financial firms.

"That might be true. Maybe we have a pipeline problem. We can fix that," she said. "So I told them I will make you a deal. I'll find them and you hire them. That's how Girls Who Invest was formed."

According to a recent Morningstar report, 8% of mutual fund managers and fewer than 5% of alternative fund managers are women.

Hingorani explained how her group identifies and trains college-age women — many who had not considered a finance career — through a network she developed. Girls Who Invest offers an all-paid boot camp: four weeks of intensive financial training followed by a six-week internship.

Dozens of women have gone through the program and represent an "amazing" diversity of socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicity, colleges, and majors, said Hingorani, a daughter of Indian immigrants.

"Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone, rethink things, hash things out — it takes time but it's not that hard," she told the group regarding hiring decisions.


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