Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Men Quants; Women Relationship Builders in Investment Banks

Excerpts from an article by Ronald Alsop

Women aren't nearly as confident as their male classmates about their math and analytical skills. "Women shouldn't really be afraid of the quant courses; it isn't rocket science," says Ms. Klose, director of advertising development for Tribune Publishing in Chicago. They can do as good work on quantitative projects as men.

Ms. Klose is typical of many of the recruiters who responded to a Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive business-school survey (2005). When asked about differences they observe in male and female M.B.A.s, they pointed to some clear demarcation lines. Men are perceived as forceful, if sometimes overly pushy leaders, as well as more adept in math. Women, recruiters agreed, tend to interact more effectively with clients and colleagues and excel in strategy and communications.

"In general, women candidates come across as strong communicators," says Eelco van Wijk, a survey respondent and manager for financial systems support at FedEx Corp. "They readily overcome any weaknesses in their resumes by performing very well in the interview process."

There are many exceptions to these generalizations: Some women are math whizzes, while some men score high in emotional intelligence. But recruiters in the survey emphatically praised female graduates as insightful, conscientious and collegial, and they consistently described men as results-driven leaders with superior quantitative-analysis skills. Female M.B.A.s have a bias to nurturing and team building and male M.B.A.s to a more analytically driven focus on success and independence. The general advice is that both should develop more well-rounded skills."

Bridging the gap

Women are encouraged to take more risks, develop a stronger handshake and dress more professionally. As for men, recruiters strongly urged them to be more humble and collaborative, listen better to other points of view and stop taking credit for other people's accomplishments.

Although the more assertive style of most men may give them an advantage at some companies, recruiters complain that men too often lack the interpersonal skills required for a team-oriented culture. They believe some male M.B.A. students are making a mistake by dismissing courses on communications and other so-called soft skills as fluff and focusing just on their technical skills. Focus on really listening to your team, direct reports and manager, and develop empathy for those you work with was the advice one respondent to male M.B.A.s.

Stephanie Waugh, a survey respondent and assistant brand manager at Procter & Gamble Co., says she encourages female M.B.A. students to "prove they can be quant jocks" as well as demonstrate superior communication skills because the two make such a powerful career combination. Realizing that marketing requires an understanding of quantitative analysis, she took an extra-heavy load of accounting and statistics courses to get up to speed. But she recalls female classmates at the Yale School of Management dropping out of an advanced quantitative course after a few weeks.

Some women later regret their limited quantitative skills. The Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC, has found in its research among alumni that women are much more likely than men to wish they had learned more about analyzing statistical data, conducting financial analyses, preparing budgets and doing cost-benefit analyses.

Good news - Edith Hunt, MD Goldman Sachs

Edith Hunt, managing director and global recruiting chief at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., believes that the results are generally good news for female graduates. "Relationship skills and the ability to work well across an organization, especially as globalization increases, will serve women well as they go forward," she says.

On the quantitative issue, she finds that women who apply to Goldman are quite focused on investment banking and have prepared well for it through their academic and work experiences. "By the time we see women in our applicant pool, they have decided they definitely want to do some aspect of investment banking," she says, "and they're as strong or stronger than the men." Female M.B.A.s at Goldman tend more toward "client facing" positions in investment banking, sales and private wealth management instead of the hard-core financial jobs. "Women understand their strengths," Ms. Hunt says, "and they go with them."

But a disproportionately small number of women M.B.A.s seek jobs at Goldman. That she attributes at least partly to the lack of role models in many women's lives. In contrast, Ms. Hunt notes, her daughter, having grown up with a mother in an executive position on Wall Street, is a commodities trader in New York.

Despite the generally superior interpersonal skills of women M.B.A.s, Ms. Hunt finds that many don't use those skills to build all-important networks inside the firm. "Men have the edge over women in informally networking within the firm," she says. "Women tend to prefer to work through the formal network. But we tell them part of work is building relationships; they need to walk the floor and talk to people."


Women tend to gravitate toward such fields as marketing partly because they're perceived as less demanding and more conducive to raising a family than, say, consulting and investment banking. In the GMAC survey of recent graduates, 29 percent of the female respondents said they sought jobs in sales and marketing, compared with 19 percent of the men, while 4 percent of the women were interested in human-resource positions vs. one percent of the men. Finance and accounting were bigger draws for men than women.

The differences in career choices are starting to change at some schools. Nearly half of the women M.B.A.s at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business still take jobs in marketing and sales. But this year a third of them are heading into finance jobs, up from only 21 percent in 2003.

"I'm convinced that more women would get into finance if they just realized they could do it," says Daniel Smith, dean of the Kelley School. "All it takes is a good teacher to learn this stuff."

About the Author
Ronald Alsop is a Wall Street Journal news editor and senior writer. He also is the editor of The Wall Street Journal Guide to the Top Business Schools and author of the recent book The 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation: Creating, Protecting, and Repairing Your Most Valuable Asset (Wall Street Journal Books/Free Press 2004).

No comments: