I learned two important lessons from writing my book: Women of The Street: Why Female Money Managers Generate Higher Returns (And How You Can Too).

  1. You can make hundreds of dollars writing a book, and,
  2. Writing a book makes you (at least) temporarily insane.

At the height of my book-induced anxiety, I decided to try an experiment. I decided that I would stop focusing on typos, PR, and what people would think of my research and that I would instead focus on other people. Hopefully, by doing good deeds for others I could do good and do well at the same time.

I kept a running list of my daily good deeds. I bought a massage gift certificate for my hair stylist (if you had to mess with my hair, you’d deserve one, too). I took a milkshake to a friend in the hospital. I bought Starbucks for 3 strangers behind me in line. I chased a neighbor’s loose dog down the street and brought it back to its fenced-in yard. I worked with charities and stray animals. I donated to good causes and I gave folks home-grown tomatoes (as every good southerner should do).

And guess what? At the end of the day, I knew I had made a difference. And I felt better. The folks around me felt better and, although the impact was, I’m sure, small, it was something.

Because of the research that I’ve done around diversity and investing, I often get asked how we can increase the number of women (and minorities) in the investment ranks, and I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the solution.

As I was reflecting recently on my own mission to create positive change, I realized that the answer to the diversity conundrum may not be that dissimilar.  Perhaps we can effect change with a basic concept that we’re all extremely familiar with. Let’s Compound Diversity.

We all know how critical mentoring is to success in this industry. There isn’t a single interview in my book that doesn’t at least mention the presence of at one significant (male or female) mentor. But we also know that mentoring is a time consuming task. And that often, the process starts too late, after the diversity funnel has already begun to narrow.

So instead, let’s focus on what I like to call “Mentoring Moments.” These are opportunities for you to help a women advance that don’t require a year-long (or life long) commitment, but which still can have an enormous amount of impact within your firm and across the industry.

 (c) 2015 MJ Alts

(c) 2015 MJ Alts

What is a mentoring moment you may ask?

It’s when you can include a junior woman in on a sales pitch, due diligence, or board meeting they might otherwise not be invited to.

It’s when you email a job description to your network to help ensure that at least one woman has a seat at the interview table.

It’s getting an extra pass to a conference and giving it to a junior colleague who might not otherwise be selected to go.

It's ensuring that diverse firms have a seat at the table when competing for investment mandates, and awarding that mandate if that firm is the best fit. 

It’s when you send a firm-wide email about someone’s great work that might otherwise go unnoticed or unsung.

In short, it’s the million little ways you can help advance women and minorities in finance and build diversity in the industry.

But mentoring moments don’t end at work – they can and should happen outside of the office as well so that we increase the number of girls and women that are potentially interested in finance and investment to begin with.

In a prior blog, I discussed how girls are less likely to get an allowance than boys and that girls are less likely to be paid for chores than boys.

I showed statistics that pay disparity starts early, with girls making less for the same chores. Boys even make more for babysitting, despite the fact that 97% of all babysitters are female.

Girls also report that they are less likely than boys to be talked to about how to finance college or budgeting or other money matters.

So start your mentoring moments early. With allowances, and discussions about what you do at work and college funding and career progression. My mom made me do little pop quizzes in math (Quick! Convert that mile marker to kilometers!) when I was a girl to ensure I was never intimidated by numbers.

Picture this: A fellow panelist at the CFA Women’s Conference in San Antonio caught her daughter and her friend playing dress up and asked what they were getting ready for. Her daughter’s answer? “We’re going to a board meeting.”

Amen.

It’s our job to help future financial professionals that may not look like the ones you normally see on CNBC know that investing is cool, and that because you’re helping other people achieve their financial goals, can be also looked at as doing well while doing good.  

And if everyone (male and female!) who reads this blog commits to just five mentoring moments over the course of the next year, think of the difference we can begin to make. Your five mentoring moments will compound, and 200 mentoring moments, and, with luck, those moments will continue to compound as those women and girls embark on their own mentoring moments. And thus, the Compound Diversity movement takes hold.

We can make a difference. One moment at a time.

If you’re willing to take the challenge I’ll even make it easy for you. Here’s a form you can print and fill in as you accomplish your five mentoring moments. First one that fills it in and sends me a copy gets a copy of my book and a bottle of small batch, super tasty Southern bourbon, on me. 

 (c) 2015 MJ Alts

(c) 2015 MJ Alts

Posted
AuthorMeredith Jones