Getting More Women into Hedge Fund Jobs

Go work in a bar. That was the suggestion a friend gave Sara Grillo, after she lost her job at Lehman Brothers in 2008. Two years later, Grillo is co-manager of hedge fund advisor Diamond Oak Capital Advisors LLC, and is campaigning to help more women get into the finance industry.

Grillo has set a target of raising the proportion of women holding the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation up to 50 percent, from the current 19 percent, according to a story from Bloomberg. “I’m a CFA charterholder and I always look women right in the face and tell them that if I did it, they can do it as well,” she says.

According to the CFA Institute, Asia-Pacific has the highest ratio of women CFAs, at 25 percent, while Europe has the lowest at 17 percent. Here in America the number is nothing to brag about, only 18 percent.

Grill’s campaign to boost these numbers includes lobbying and doing motivational speeches. She’s also mentoring 20 students, including students from New York University’s Stern School of Business, where she got her MBA. Grillo’s firm, Diamond Oak, also has five interns working for them, including Nan Zhao, 25, who moved to the U.S. from China to work in finance and has recently passed her second level of the three-part CFA exam.

Grillo says women face additional challenges in the finance industry, including being judged by their looks. “I’m athletic and I eat well and I don’t have any wrinkles or grey hair,” she said. “It’s a huge problem in finance because I go to these meetings and I really stand out. It’s difficult for me to get credibility and to build trust because I look like a teenage girl.”

Nevertheless, Grillo continues giving inspirational speeches and has been asked to teach a finance class for undergraduates at Marymount Manhattan College, another possible avenue for boosting female achievement in finance.

Do you think women are held to higher standards or judged superficially, when applying for finance jobs? Add your comments below.

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