Podcast: Advancing Gender Equality in Investment Management


On July 2, 2019, Jamesbeck’s Melissa Norris spoke with Cheri Belski of T. Rowe Price and Meg Staczek of Capacity Group about changes that have resulted from a November 2018 panel discussion on women in leadership, hosted by Jamesbeck. The panel focused on women in investment management, and ways to help advance gender equality.


Listen here, check out the summary below, or access the full transcript.





  • Melissa Norris, one of the founders of Jamesbeck, a boutique executive search firm focused on the investment management community
  • Cheri Belski, Head of Retirement for the U.S. at T. Rowe Price
  • Meg Staczek, founder of Capacity Group, an executive consulting firm, and Executive Coach for Jamesbeck




Cheri reported that T. Rowe considers gender equality a business imperative that must be woven into the firm’s overall strategic plan in order for it to remain successful over the longer term. T. Rowe has found that financial returns can increase by more than 33% with gender equality in the workplace. This is because gender equality is positively correlated to increased job satisfaction, better decision making, and innovation, due to the corresponding diversity of thought. T. Rowe has signed the CEO pledge for diversity inclusion to demonstrate their commitment to this focus, and to invite uncomfortable conversations to achieve a better gender equality environment for its business.


T. Rowe has created WAVE, a global business-resource group focused on recruiting, identifying, developing, promoting and retaining highly capable and high-potential women at the firm. Cheri serves as chair of WAVE, which also seeks to raise awareness around gender equality. Globally, WAVE has created a formal mentoring program for women to help stretch and guide them to lean into different types of thinking, capabilities, and connections in roles longer term.


Changes and enhancements in recruitment and hiring practices at T. Rowe have included recognizing that diversity begets diversity. The firm has sought to educate its leadership and hiring managers in this regard, pointing out that while interviewing, candidates subconsciously or consciously notice others in the organization who look like them.


T. Rowe has taken steps to create diversity in the interviewer lineup by including people with mixed backgrounds, experiences, and roles. The firm also proactively addresses the fact that diversity and inclusion matter at T. Rowe by highlighting business resource groups across pride, multicultural and gender, and by helping candidates get to know the firm as a whole.


Meg weighed in with the following supporting statistics from a Glassdoor survey:[i]


  • 67% of job seekers overall are looking at workforce diversity when evaluating an offer; while
  • 61% of women look at the gender diversity of the employer’s leadership team.


Meg also commented that diversity in interview panels and candidate sets helps reduce the natural bias that exists within firms and in the dominant population.


Meg noted that job satisfaction actually increases for individuals who feel as though they can have comfortable conversations about gender differences at work. She said that a smart, layered approach can help reinforce and bring about an organic reaction to changing the conversation around gender and inclusion in the workplace, and laid out the following process:


  • First stage: Start small with a targeted group of influencers and those in senior positions who can role-model that it’s safe to engage in this dialogue;
  • Second stage: Expand the number of people who are exposed to the initiative and participating in it; and
  • Third Stage: Go deeper and broader with the audience so participants can self-initiate and facilitate additional dialogues.


Cheri noted that T. Rowe initiated the smaller, high-level conversations about gender, and then asked Meg to help structure, facilitate, and moderate the initiative. The impact of the process is significant and ongoing. T. Rowe associates have reported positive effects in their professional and personal conversations, and have asked to continue the dialogue. Recent developments include the emergence of “gender mentors,” where a male and a female pair up to have continued conversations around gender.


Cheri recognizes that Meg essentially taught T. Rowe to have an uncomfortable conversation as a firm, and gave them a framework that can be applied to other difficult topics. Meg observed that the people with whom she worked at T. Rowe exhibited a genuine and deep level of care for their colleagues’ experiences around inclusion.


Cheri identified the following significant hurdles to the process of addressing gender equality at T. Rowe: the need to quell initial fearful mindsets about gender conversations; and the importance of choosing the right mix of individuals to have the first set of small group conversations.


The firm addressed these challenges in many ways. The issue of quelling fears was helped by being very clear about the initiative and what they hoped to accomplish. The second challenge was addressed by identifying and including people with positive, neutral and possibly dissenting views on gender equality. T. Rowe also held focus groups with men and women to get their input on what would help create a safe environment for these discussions to take place. The firm aligned the gender initiative with Diversity and Inclusion, and sought buy-in from the CEO and other leader-influencers. Supportive partnerships, multiple advocates, and visible and active sponsors across the organization further reinforced the value of the gender dialogue.


In conclusion, Cheri and Meg made the following suggestions to leaders and firms who may be looking to begin and implement a dialogue on gender, inclusion and diversity. Explore potential partnerships to address the question of “How can we have bolder or more courageous conversations within our firm?” Educate yourself, as there’s a lot of information that’s currently available on these topics. Also, consider asking your colleagues about their personal experiences in the workplace, and listen to their responses. The more you ask, the more you’ll learn.


[i] “What Job Seekers Really Think of Your Diversity Stats,” Glassdoor for Employers, November 17, 2014, https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/diversity.