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Monday, August 06, 2018

How One Non-Profit Hopes to Eliminate 'Manels'

Reported by Bridget Doyle

Women in ETFs (WE), a global coalition representing the interests of female professionals in the ETF industry, has launched a new Speaker's Bureau task force focused on bolstering the representation of women at industry conferences.

"We all go to Inside ETFs, for example, we go to Morningstar, we go to IMN — and it's very visible that the women representation on the panels is usually in the high single digits or low teens," says Linda Zhang, co-founder of WE and CEO and founder of Purview Investments. Zhang explains that the bureau aims to provide conference organizers and media outlets with accessible resources to connect with women in the industry. "It's just a no-brainer, since we have over 4,000 talented members to tap into, we can help conference organizers close the gender gap on the industry panels."

According to Zhang, the bureau was formed following an Inside ETFs conference by herself and Elisabeth Kashner, co-leader of the task force and director of ETF research at FactSet. Kashner is also well known for her work as director of research at ETF.com. Other members of the Speaker's Bureau include: Jillian DelSignore, co-president of WE and head of ETF distribution at J.P. Morgan Asset Management; Joanne Hill of CBOE and co-founder of WE; Jill Mavro of SSgA; and Kristine Delano, co-head of external liaison at WE and managing director of marketplace strategy at NextShares Solutions.

"Many major ETF conferences have women representing about 15 to 18 percent of the panels, and we're hoping in the next 18 months that we'll reach a quarter, 25 percent," says Zhang, joking that some industry organizers refer to panels as 'manels' because of the lack of female representation.

In addition to efforts from the global organization, Zhang says she hopes to rally local chapters in the coming months and expand the list, currently made up of 30 names.

"Right now it's a little U.S.-centric," says Zhang, noting that there are plans in place to establish regional contacts within the organization to promote greater diversity in what she describes as the ETF ecosystem. "We want much, much more."

Editor's note: A prior version of this story's headline mischaracterized the nature of Women in ETFs (WE). WE is a non-profit organization. 

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