Rosanna Bruni, Head of Trading, PSP Investments:

How CV-19 can be an opportunity to rebalance gender inequality on the trading floor

Interview by Oliver Kirkbright, General Manager and Editor, The Finance Hive
Interviewee: Rosanna Bruni, Head of Trading, PSP Investments

Alongside Rosanna’s role as Senior Director of Trading at PSP Investments – one of Canada’s largest pensions investment managers – Rosanna is a D&I champion, member of the PSP i&D Council and the Co-Lead of the Gender Dynamics Affinity Group and Co-Chair of the Women in Capital Markets Montreal Steering Committee.
Rosanna’s commitment to invest in, educate and inspire women in capital markets has driven her to challenge the misconceptions of what a career in capital markets entails for young females, to provide support and push the fight for gender equality in trading forward.
I was very fortunate to speak with Rosanna as she shared her experience, advice, and thoughts on how the 2020 pandemic can reset the work-life balance and open the door for more female talent to enter the trading world.
Why do you think we are still seeing gender inequalities in trading roles versus other professions?

Despite the progress that has been made recently, we clearly still have a lot of work to do before we reach gender equality in trading. Work-life balance is a big factor as traders tend to be stuck at their desk all day and into the evenings. So not only are such demands unattractive, they also contribute significantly to this imbalance in the trading world.

Additionally, our world is male-dominated and frequently highlighted as such in the media; this reality is seen by women as an obstacle to raising a family. This issue is not new, especially for women, however the pandemic has only served to intensify this problem and has exposed major flaws in gender equality.

Post COVID, we have an opportunity to change this reality by implementing flexible, working from home days. We can no longer say it is inefficient to work from home, and a hybrid solution is definitely going to be in the equation going forward. This mind-set shift will be a game-changer for the industry. I strongly believe industry players are more open to change and collectively wish to reduce gender inequality.

We can no longer say it is inefficient to work from home and a hybrid solution is definitely going to be in the equation going forward. This mind-set shift will be a game-changer for the industry
What are the common roadblocks to females pursuing a career in trading and how do you think they can be overcome?

The most common roadblock is the scarcity of information about the work that a career in trading involves and the lack of flexibility.

The first step to overcome this is to proactively encourage and support young females to pursue STEM fields, while demystifying and breaking down the misconceptions of the trading world so they are encouraged to follow these educational paths.

At PSP Investments we encourage women to apply for rewarding jobs in our field. For example, last year in a joint venture day with Women in Capital Markets, we hosted ‘Job Shadow Day’ at our office with the objective to improve gender equality in the finance industry for future generations. We hosted this with other buy side firms in Montreal and invited close to 100 high-school girls. We exposed them to various positions in each organisation, ranging from trading, legal, compliance, back office and technology. It was an incredible day, and the take-away lesson in their words was “I did not know that I could do all these different things in finance”. It is about opening that door for them, and of course I did emphasise trading in a big way!

The second step to overcome this challenge is to broaden our talent pool, making sure we have not left any stone unturned in the pursuit for a diverse workforce on the trading desk. Firstly, we need to ensure we include gender diversity as a goal when selecting interns; this is the first step to introducing young minds to trading. Secondly, we need to offer development opportunities to interns and current employees so more people from different backgrounds can learn about trading, its products and environment. And thirdly and perhaps the most important, we need to offer flexibility when needed.

The first step to overcome this is to proactively encourage and support young females to pursue STEM fields, while demystifying and breaking down the misconceptions of the trading world so they are encouraged to follow these educational paths.
Have you ever experienced any roadblocks or challenges yourself?

One that still burns to this day was something that happened at the very early stage of my career when working at a previous firm. As a young mother, my daughter of 9 months was hospitalised. I was very worried and wanted to be at her bedside day and night. Of course, I stayed at the hospital to be with her, but the following day I received a call from the office asking when I was going to go back. I felt the pressure to return when my employer gave me the message that I better get back to work. When I returned, the first thing I was told was that I had to choose ‘whether I wanted to be a mother or a trader’. To this day, I cannot forget my feelings of sorrow and distress that this terrible choice caused.

I never spoke about my children again at work and I felt like I had to work twice as hard and be better than anyone else to keep my trader position, but the price me and my family had to face was too high. I hope that no other women will ever have to make the decision of taking care of their sick child or losing their job.

When I went back, the first thing I was told was that I had to choose ‘whether I wanted to be a mother or a trader’. To this day, I cannot forget my feelings of sorrow and distress that this terrible choice caused
Could you tell us a little bit about the steps PSP Investments is taking to promote gender equality, and your involvement here?

Gender equity and equality have always been a top priority at PSP Investments, starting with our board which has proudly reached gender balance. Beyond representation, our board members are passionate about gender equity efforts and take part in some of our activities.
One such activity was ‘Take Charge of your Career Day’ which included involvement from female board members to equip female employees with tools needed to support them in their own careers. We were fortunate to have our board members participate in a full day of workshops, panel discussions, alongside the senior leadership team – and male allies – and provided networking opportunities at all levels of the organisation. We had brilliant feedback with employees saying they felt supported and empowered after the day.

In addition, we are fortunate to have an I&D council headed by our CEO and Head of HR. The council regroups 8 affinity groups: Gender dynamics, LGBTQ+, Anti Racism, culture and religion, Indigenous peoples, Veterans, People with disabilities, and Diversity of thought and perspective. As a commitment to continuously enhancing the employee experience, PSP constantly monitors and adapts. We provide consistent policies for our global workforce, including our global family leave policy, allowing employees to take leave to bond with their newborn or adopted child regardless of where they work. This promotes a work-life integration culture that attracts top talent, continuously positioning PSP Investments as an employer of choice that is firmly committed to diversity and inclusion.

Several women at PSP have received promotions while on maternity leave which is something you do not see very often. Also, our employers have tailored development plans and access to individualised development and learning opportunities to support their growth. We also leverage the mentorship programmes offered by our external partners, both as mentors and prodigies. In addition, we are also focused on working on the equity and equality of other under-represented talent such as indigenous peoples, people of colour, and disabled communities. Our stats now show that we have 25.5% of women in senior positions, and 28.5% at the executive level, which is good for this industry but there is still so much more to be done.

This promotes a work-life integration culture that attracts top talent, continuously positioning PSP Investments as an employer of choice that is firmly committed to diversity and inclusion
What steps do you feel we need to take as an industry to address gender inequality, both in terms of pay and in terms of having more females in senior roles?

To address pay equity, Women In Capital Markets outlined it best in their equity equation research report. Firstly, firms need to conduct a pay equity audit, review the compensation of all employees, and adjust the inequity observed. Secondly, we must monitor pay equity on a yearly basis to maintain equality. Finally, we need to make the compensation framework transparent to all.

To address more females in senior roles, we need to identify more female leaders to create and maintain a pipeline that starts as early as internship. We then need processes to give women tools such as mentoring and the necessary training in hard and soft skills to accompany upward advancement. To truly assist female employees, we need to support them when family challenges occur, giving them the necessary tools to get through juggling work and family responsibilities.

As I already stated but cannot stress enough, it is important to demystify the industry for women at a young age. I have never believed in quotas or targets, but gender equality has been too slow to progress and in the absence of targets and quotas greater women representation in senior positions remains stagnant.

I believe it is time to set targets to ensure gender equity. Women in Capital Markets research shows 92% of Canadian survey respondents were in favour of adopting targets for women, indigenous, and people of colour at both the board and executive level.

I have never believed in quotas or targets, but gender equality has been too slow to progress and in the absence of targets and quotas greater women representation in senior positions remains stagnant
Are there any associations or industry bodies that can help support both firms and individuals to become more gender equal?

Absolutely, there are so many. Some local ones we use in Montreal are AFFQ, Women in Governance, and nationally there is Women in Communications and Technology and Women in Capital Markets as mentioned above. It is really important to leverage the reach of these associations to increase their support in addition to what we do internally.

It is also important to celebrate women who are appointed in senior roles, to encourage other women to believe it is possible to succeed. Globally we have seen senior females appointed in the top roles at Hydro-Quebec, Mercedes-Benz Canada, and perhaps most pertinently seeing the first female black Vice President in the US, as well as an all-female senior white house communications team. We have seen and welcomed Germany’s historic announcement introducing a mandatory quota for the number of women working as senior management in the countries listed companies, and NASDAQ recently proposing to force listed companies to diversify their boards. We are getting there – it is important for us to leverage these resources and appointments around the globe.

I believe that having more women in any positions, including top management, contributes to diversity of thought and that leads to better decision making
As a role model who is highly influential in trading, what advice would you give to any females looking to pursue a career in this field?

Be authentic, don’t apologise for who you are. Always put your best foot forward and just go for it. It is important to believe in yourself, learn from mistakes and do not dwell on them. Never stop being curious, never stop asking questions, ask for support when you need it, ask for clarifications on a project, and ask for a promotion if you believe you deserve one.

Do not hide your motherhood or other caregiving responsibilities. Being a professional does not make you any less of a caregiver, and being a care-giver does not make you any less of a professional. If you have a young family during hard times, do not hesitate to ask for help from your manager and your colleagues.

I am confident that we are in for some very serious and welcome shifts for gender equity. 2020 brought awareness and commitment from many around the globe to address gender equality and diversity, and the pandemic has highlighted the unfairness in the workplace. We are on the right footing, things are changing, and this may be a pivotal year going forward. It was best said by Martin Luther King Jr: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl. But whatever you do you have to keep moving forward”.

I am confident that as an industry we are moving forward, together. So as long as we keep up the progress we will hopefully get to a level where gender discrimination is eliminated in the trading world.

Be authentic, don’t apologise for who you are. Always put your best foot forward and just go for it. It is important to believe in yourself, be passionate, and if you make a mistake, learn from it, move forward and don’t dwell on it

If you want to make a difference, meet other organisations and peers who are similar minded, want to drive forward D&I in capital markets, widen your opportunity for talent and find out new ways to give more diverse groups of individuals a pathway into trading, please get in touch to find out how The Hive Network’s diversity initiative can help you.

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