WIN Conference aims to boost representation of women in investing

By: Stephen D'Angelo
a statue of a girl stands in defiance on WallStreet

A recent study conducted by Morningstar found that only 11% of fund managers in the United States, and 14% globally, are female. Yet many studies demonstrate that men and women invest differently and this diversity of perspective leads to better business outcomes for clients. For the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, improving such underrepresentation starts early for the next generation of women leaders in the industry.

The 6th Annual Undergraduate Women in Investing Conference (WIN) took place virtually Sept. 29 – Oct. 1 with two objectives: (1) to educate undergraduate women about career options in the investment management industry, and (2) facilitate their recruiting and networking opportunities with sponsoring firms.

According to founder Lakshmi Bhojraj, ’95, MBA ’01, Breazzano Family Executive Director of the Parker Center for Investment Research, the WIN conference provides a dedicated forum for women undergraduates to learn about careers in investment management, to pitch a stock and obtain feedback from professional investors, and to network and recruit with sponsoring firms.

“By seeing successful women from industry talk about their own career trajectory, why they like what they do, what the trends, opportunities, and challenges are in the field, students are both informed and inspired to explore careers in the field,” she says.

participants at WIN
This year’s WIN took place virtually.

Interest in the conference, which is modeled after the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management’s long-running MBA Women in Investing Conference, also founded by Bhojraj, has grown strongly since 2016. In its inaugural year, the conference attracted 32 women from eight schools. This year, it saw 90 applications and almost 70 students participating from more than 20 universities around the country.

Further, the conference attracted support from various types of investment firms, from large players such as Capital Group and Fidelity Investments, to smaller ones like Boston Partners, and banks like HSBC. Bhojraj cites 30+ representatives from 11 sponsoring firms participating in this conference compared to four firms in its first year.

“We share the same goal with the conference to encourage women to explore and pursue careers in investment management,” says Hilary Albright, talent acquisition manager at Capital Group. “Investing is a terrific career for women and stock pitches are a fantastic way for students to get more ‘hands-on’ investing experience.

“This conference has our full support and Undergrad WIN has been an important recruiting pipeline for stellar talent at Capital Group [and] we are proud of our involvement as a founding sponsor,” she says.

Better business impact

“Many studies point to the fact that having diverse voices and perspectives at the table leads to better business outcomes, particularly in the business of managing money,” Bhojraj says. “It is also important that the workforce represents the client base that is being served, which in turn, can play a role in the amount of assets a company is able to attract, so this is an added incentive for industry to diversify its workforce.”

Undergraduate student Laurel Prime, Dyson ’22 says she admired some of the conference’s previous speakers and selected attendees, feeling that participating in WIN would help her expand her own knowledge of the investment management industry and connect with distinguished industry professionals.

“The conference has very positively impacted my career plans for after graduation this May,” Prime says. “Constructing financial models, building a robust understanding of corporate strategy, and demonstrating conviction in selling my ideas are valuable skills that I can actively leverage in not only investment management but any business [or] tech role that I might choose to pursue.”

Students had the opportunity to present an investment idea at the event and hear feedback from professionals in the field. Self-described as very competitive, Prime entered the stock pitch showcase session, ultimately placing second with her team. “Contributing to the Cornell team’s stock pitch win has amplified my confidence in my abilities and the breadth of opportunities that are at my disposal,” she says.

Charlotte Hall, an investment analyst at Capital Group and judge for stock pitch showcase session at the conference, says she “was impressed with students’ ability to present what they know with authority and make recommendations based on highly imperfect information, which will serve them well in whatever field they go into.”

For Rachel Bowman, investment analyst at Capital Group, similar conferences and pitch competitions were important to her introduction to the investing industry in college.

“Almost 10 years ago I participated in a sister competition to WIN hosted by Cornell and it was really cool to come ‘full circle,’” she says. “I hope in 10 or 20 years there will be so many women in investing that we aren’t underrepresented anymore. Investment management is such a special career path and I’m looking forward to our field becoming more diverse in the coming years.”