Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, July 17, 2017

"How women can find their work/life balance"/ "It's time for the financial industry to grow up"

May 12, 2017 "How women can find their work/life balance": Today I found this article by Marianne Harrison in the Globe and Mail:

There are many ways to meet the needs of your family while continuing to do well at your job

Women too often feel they need to leave the work force to have a family and that the pressures of work and family are such that they must choose one or the other. As a mother of four running Manulife’s Canadian business, I believe you can have both.

While it is possible for women to be there for their families and grow professionally, there is no question that challenges remain. Some are rooted in women’s perceptions of what they can and should be doing at work or at home with a growing family, while some are rooted in outdated norms.

I remember clearly after returning to work after my second child, a senior colleague took me aside and said that if I had any more children, it would affect my ability to progress at the company. Two months later, I was pregnant with my third. In fact, I even had a fourth child.
Here are some things women can do to make it work.

Step back, not out

People ask me all the time, “With four kids and a big job, how do you do it?” My answer is usually that I have no idea! Realistically, it’s about balancing work and life and making some trade-offs. Today, there are many options women can take advantage of to step back, rather than out, of their careers to balance the needs of their families and continue to do well at work.

If you are feeling stretched, reduce work commitments to 80 per cent to find balance. Too often, women don’t pursue the option of a shorter work week, but it is ultimately much better for the company to grant shorter weeks than to lose a strong employee altogether. If possible, take advantage of workplace programs that help parents find balance, such as remote-work options or flexible work hours. At Manulife, employees have the option to work some or all their hours from home.

Stepping back often leads to benefits at home. My children and I are very close. They are in their teens and early twenties now, but the relationship doesn’t necessarily get easier as they get older; their problems are actually bigger in many ways. There will be a time when your children will need you less, and when that time comes, you will be happy to have a career outside of the home.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

Identify what’s important. When it comes to work, are you looking to climb the ladder? Are you looking to develop a certain skill set? Or are you looking for stability? Determine what you want out of your career and let people know what your aspirations are. If you don’t, people may make decisions for you.

Manage your time wisely at home. Consider the opportunity cost of tasks such as cleaning, meal preparation or home repairs. If possible, share responsibilities with your spouse or outsource them to somebody for hire, which will allow you to focus on the personal or professional things that matter more to you. That’s not to say that if you derive joy from taking care of the home, you should not do it. But do not sacrifice the time you could spend expanding your career or nurturing your children dusting the shelves or washing the windows.

Take calculated risks

In 2003, I became Manulife’s controller in Toronto. Things were going well when I was asked to consider running one of our businesses in Boston. The first things that came to mind were reasons to say no: my husband, four kids with the eldest going into his senior year of high school and the uprooting of our lives. Yet, it was everything I wanted from a career perspective: I would be running a business, which was something I’d never done before. Taking that job felt like a huge risk but also like the right thing to do.

A supportive and understanding spouse and family make all the difference. With their blessing, I accepted the job and we moved in 2008. Then the financial crisis hit, and the business had to make drastic changes. That year proved to be pivotal in my own reinvention. Being entrenched in the many facets of a business I knew little about during a very challenging time allowed me to develop new skills. I loved it. Taking that risk paid off and helped me get where I am today.

Support other women

Women in leadership roles attract other women to pursue leadership roles, and my executive management team at Manulife Canada is 40-per-cent women. When I speak at our corporate sales conferences, Manulife’s Global Women’s Alliance events, or any time I get in front of employees, I tell my story in the hopes the audience will find a nugget of value that helps them better achieve their own career aspirations and work-life balance.

We can’t always plan the perfect path for our careers, and sometimes it’s better to not plan too much. Keep your options open for new adventures. In many ways, it’s how we approach these challenges that determines our journey and ultimately our outcomes. Your career path doesn’t need to be neat and tidy to land in the right place.

 "It's time for the financial industry to grow up": Today I found this article by Barbara Stewart in the Globe and Mail:

Barbara Stewart, CFA, is a researcher, currency expert and former portfolio manager with 25 years’ experience in the investment industry.

I am happy to announce that, as of 2017, finance is finally outgrowing its tension with women.

I mean tension in the way that Carl Jung used it. He said that “the greatest and most important problems of life are in a certain sense insoluble. …They can never be solved, but only outgrown.”

My opinion: I'm going to put that in my inspirational quotes. 

The Jungian “tension of the opposites” perfectly describes the relationship between today’s financial industry and women. He said this tension can hold for a long time and be extremely uncomfortable, until it changes into a third and better outcome.

I have been in many investment committee meetings where the alpha male lead manager and his predominantly male followers (often from the same MBA class, sports team, fraternity or golf club) sat around a table and spent the hours agreeing with each other in what sometimes seemed like a single voice. There were some women, but most tried to be one of the boys, with only the occasional outlier who had a different way of looking at the world.

The standard script was that the alpha male stated his views on a stock, the followers gave their input, a couple added “colour” and everybody nodded and moved on. But sometimes a voice (it may have been mine!) asked “how can I explain what the company does so that our customers will understand?” Female clients tend to ask those questions, but asking that in an investment committee meeting runs the risk of making you looking foolish.

Investment committees matter: a more diverse group will ask questions that don’t occur to less-diverse teams. And it is in tricky markets when asking different questions really matters:

groupthink is fine with a tailwind, but a disaster when your firm’s picks aren’t working out.
Diversity will enhance a firm’s ability to ask better questions, and a diverse approach has been shown to produce both better results and lower risk. Every portfolio manager team is “seeking alpha” (the amount by which the portfolio beats the market): perhaps the path to better alpha is to move away from traditional alpha male dominance?

Most firms are rapidly scrambling to figure out how to sell more effectively to female customers and attract much-needed female advisors and executives. More women = more money.

It’s estimated that women already make more than 80 per cent of all purchasing decisions and will control two-thirds of all wealth within the next decade.

If companies want to attract more female clients, they need to help women align their investments with their values. This is a language women understand: their investments should match their personal values, and women prefer to be engaged emotionally in an investment decision.

A diverse investment team will better mirror a diverse customer base and understand what motivates each and every customer. Women are incredibly loyal customers and love to share, so they are likely to bring along assets from their parents, their siblings and everyone they know.

Much can be learned from firms such as Canada’s Kensington Capital Partners. With 50 employees, they are 50 per cent female, challenging the status quo for the industry. A recent hire was renowned technology entrepreneur Gerri Sinclair.

“Part of the reason that I decided to start working in the investment field was that there were so few women in the field,” she said. “There was no way that I would have joined [Kensington] if this was a firm of only white guys! I was impressed that at our first dinner, there were three women and two men at the table, and I also liked the fact that the Kensington culture was also reflected in the wide diversity in age, ethnicity, and personality of its people.”

Only 11 per cent of global senior venture capital employees were female in 2015, and in private equity buyout firms, that figure was only 9 per cent. According to a study by the CFA Institute titled Gender Diversity in Investment Management, women represent less than one in five CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) charterholders both globally and in Canada.

The most often-cited reasons for the lack of female talent in finance are the long hours, the difficulty in balancing work and family life, and the general shortage of available qualified female candidates.

Maybe we need to advertise more, but particularly on the sales side, that the investment business is one of the most flexible in terms of time at the office. It is all about pay for performance. Produce results and no one will care how you made it happen or where you were.

I think the old guard in money management is fading, and they aren’t putting energy into making serious change at this point. Meanwhile, behind the scenes we have the new guard (of smart men, women and millennials) working passionately to move the world of finance forward in leaps and bounds.


16 hours ago

Where's the source that women will control 2/3rds of the world's wealth in the next decade? It seems improbable...
1 Reaction

Art Campbell
15 hours ago

Striving to have more women in the work force has caused much damage. The biggest is probably unemployment. In 1950 21% of women were in the work force. In 2015 82%. It also reduced salaries. Which meant that ore women joined the work fore because hubbies salary was perceived as not enough. Their joining the work force put more downward pressure on salaries

Who won? Business. Business put a lot of pressure on women, sort of starting in 1960s. Article upon article on women in the work force. So much so that men and women tend to think they are nobody if they are not in the work force..

"From 1976 to 1989, the number of dual-earner couples increased by 60%. This was followed by a period of slower growth from 1989 to 2005, when the number of families with two working parents increased by 15%". (Statcan)

So no wonder there is unemployment and low salaries.
It appears to improve the situation, two income families should be considering becoming one income families.
1 Reaction

19 hours ago

I wouldn't expect an industry veteran of any gender to give voice to this idea, but one way for any aspiring group or person to assert greater influence in the financial industry would be for them to take the initiative to reduce fee levels without compromising on service. 

When I see this industry veteran taking a swipe at the establishment, but demonstrate no interest in competing on price, it just sounds like the same old schtick dressed up in a new outfit.
20 hours ago

"But sometimes a voice (it may have been mine!) asked “how can I explain what the company does so that our customers will understand?”"
You're an adult with a post secondary education, you should be able to articulate this yourself.

16 hours ago

The Market is expected to return 4% a year over the next decade and these advisors charge 1.25% on all assets. Its no wonder people don't want an advisor - female or otherwise.
Good Samaritan
2 hours ago

Canada has grown up. It is a leader in fair treatment and a leader in improving that trend. Diversity is the result of fair treatment of everyone, not a goal or strategy.

One of the great facilitators of discrimination is stereotyping - thinking we know someone by their group identity. Yet Ms Stewart promotes this intellectual error with the generalizations listed in her column. Furthermore she fails to inform her readers that judging people by general statistics is appropriately labelled - statistical discrimination - the very thing that has disadvantaged some groups. The truth is probably that firms are using positions like Ms. Stewart's as a marketing ploy in a campaign to get customers.
If firms peddle the thinking which promoted discrimination, do we want them for advisors?
2 Reactions

18 hours ago

I sort of like when they called us muppets, atleast we know what team they are playing for

12 hours ago

Barbara, you stated "The standard script was that the alpha male stated his views on a stock, the followers gave their input, a couple added “colour” and everybody nodded and moved on. But sometimes a voice (it may have been mine!) asked “how can I explain what the company does so that our customers will understand?”
If your company is investing your customers money (likely many thousands or even millions of dollars) and your question is how can I explain what that company does, my response would be do your due diligence rather than wasting everybody's time.


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