What better way for Elgin White to support International Women’s Day 2023 than by shining a spotlight on our very own Lauren Pierce, Senior Recruitment Consultant at Elgin White? In this interview Lauren shares her views on the state of gender equality in investment management and tells us what buy-side technology vendors and Elgin White are doing to #EmbraceEquality.
E|W: What is your role at E|W?
LP: Elgin White specializes in buy-side technology consulting. We partner with investment management firms on strategic advisory, technology, and cloud/SaaS adoption projects. As well as helping with evaluation, search, and selection, we also offer implementation, support, and managed services. Very often these engagements require resourcing support, to plug skill gaps or accelerate deployment. As Senior Recruitment Consultant at E|W I am responsible for identifying senior-level, investment management subject matter experts and ensuring a great match between candidates and companies. I do this for both our internal team here at E|W and for our clients globally across both permanent and contract/freelance hires.
E|W: What challenges did you face on your own path to become a senior leader in FinTech?
LP: Having started my career in sales, I experienced the power of networking and I gravitated towards recruitment at a time when the UK was emerging from recession. There were easy pickings – hundreds of CVs for generic roles, and many placements. But it wasn’t challenging, and commissions were relatively low. I realized that the harder it was to identify and secure candidates, the more interesting and rewarding it became. As well as having the support of my male directors, I was lucky to have a hugely supportive male mentor in the agency. He specialized in SimCorp recruitment and encouraged me to develop expertise in OMS (Order Management Systems). He trained me to analyze market trends, foresee emerging skill or resource gap, and therefore predict future talent demand.
The first challenge I faced as a woman in this sector was that clients – and in some cases candidates – doubted my ability to understand their technical OMS-specific requirements. Male colleagues experienced a much warmer reception. It took a long time to grow my reputation across the industry as an expert OMS resourcer, who can achieve rapid results in a market where high-quality talent is scarce. Now that I have, life has become a lot easier!
The second challenge was that I became pregnant during the pandemic. I didn’t want to side-line my career ambitions, however the wellbeing of my family became paramount. E|W opened new doors for career progression, and offered the kind of stability, support, and flexible working that I needed – so the decision to switch from an agency environment was easy. I could never have achieved the work-life balance that E|W has helped me cultivate if I had stayed in an agency. The opportunity to work with supportive colleagues, to learn more skills and develop into management consulting sealed the deal for me to join.
E|W: Is the number of women working in buy-side technology changing, and if so, why?
LP: Although I have a network of 1000s of great candidates to place in environments like SimCorp, CRD and Eagle, the list has always been dominated by men. However, the number of inbound approaches I receive from women is rising significantly and candidates are gaining experience much earlier in their careers. Many more young women are going straight from university to work in technical roles within these firms – who are clearly doing a good job of attracting and training them – and progressing their careers much faster, which is exciting!
Covid has also been a catalyst for change. In many cases, working from home redressed the balance of childcare responsibilities within families and made it more acceptable to be offline at certain points of the day to address personal issues. Although many firms have returned to office-based or hybrid working, the flexibility that Covid required has remained. The need or desire to do the school run, for example, is far less likely to limit your opportunities than it would have done five years ago.
E|W: What are you and your clients doing to #EmbraceEquality and maximize opportunities for senior women?
LP: First, all of the women we employ or place are offered the exact same pay as equally-qualified male counterparts performing the same role. The start-point for any discussion on pay is the market rate for the role. Unfortunately, many women applying for roles are earning less than men with equivalent skills and experience, so are inclined to ask for less. But we redress that from the outset, by paying at or above market rate for everyone, depending on circumstances, regardless of gender. For me this is important. I will always provide clear and honest information on the market rates for any skill set I am recruiting for, and be forthcoming on any budgetary constraints, so that all candidates – regardless of gender – are able to understand their earning potential and maximize that by working with E|W.
Second, both internally and in partnership with our clients, we make every effort to offer flexibility to accommodate care requirements. Since Covid, I have found that women are much more up-front about their personal circumstances, and wherever possible I work with a client to meet those requirements, which helps them to secure the best candidate for every role.
Third, I encourage all clients to be transparent about terms of employment that specifically relate to women. Maternity (and now paternity) is still a taboo subject, which no woman will ask about in an interview. Employers should provide full details of maternity/paternity and flexi-working T&Cs at the outset to eliminate fear of rejection.
E|W: What would you encourage women to do, to progress their careers in this sector?
LP: Apart from the points already mentioned, seize every opportunity for knowledge-sharing and vendor or OMS module-specific training. This will enrich your profile and make you even more valuable to prospective employers.
Also, if you are approached by a head-hunter or recruiter about a role, we genuinely believe you are a great candidate. Trust us when we tell you that you can do the job – and have faith in your own ability to do so. Women are still troubled by imposter syndrome and unwilling to pursue a role if they don’t tick every box on the job description list. Male candidates are less deterred by the box-ticking exercise, instead thinking of transferrable skills that would make them a great candidate for the role. Employers are very open to discussion, and as a recruiter I will always provide the very best preparation for any candidate to feel confident entering an interview, regardless of any perceived “short falls” in a candidate’s eligibility for the role.
For more information on the roles that Lauren is recruiting for, either internal E|W positions or placements with E|W clients, please complete our contact form and upload your CV.