L-R: Sonia Sonia Baillie, Sam Mostyn and Deanne Stewart

Aware Super’s head of income assets, Sonia Baillie, said investment teams in super funds are facing a huge “industry image problem”. 

Speaking at an International Women’s Day event at the fund’s Sydney office on Thursday, Baillie said the Hollywood-style fund manager stereotype is making it really difficult for young women to imagine themselves in investment roles. 

“[It’s] the Wolf of Wall Street, and it’s Michael Douglas,” she told the crowd, while proposing that the industry speak more about personalities like RBA governor Michele Bullock.  

“I think if we distil that imagery into our young women, they might be inspired to have that input into the economic debate.” 

The event came on the heels of the gender pay gap data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) last week. The report found that the median total remuneration gender pay gap for superannuation and insurance companies was 26.1 per cent in 2022-23, and the median base salary pay gap was 24.6 per cent.  

The former was on par with the broader financial services sector, but the latter metric was higher than the 23.6 per cent industry gap.   

Baillie, who was previously AMP Capital’s head of credit, said if funds want to attract women into higher-paid roles in investment teams, there needs to be flexibility in role design. This could include arrangements such as opening up more roles to part-time candidates.  

“Where we see the most under-representation is at that mid-level career. Our early roles… have a great 50/50 representation [of female workers], but it’s at that childbearing age where we seem to see a really big drop off in investment management,” she said. 

Women in Aware’s investment team also tend to be in research and responsible investing roles, Baillie said, but getting them into trading, portfolio management and risk-taking roles will be the thing that “really moves the dial” on gender pay gap.  

To do that, funds must be willing to take some risks themselves, she said.  

“I think employment market is very technically siloed. If you’ve worked in private equity, you don’t ever dream of looking at listed equities because they are so different,” she said. 

“Going to recruiters with a broader mandate and say ‘this is the skill set we’re looking for’, and really to take the risks to develop those people – I think that is where we make progress.” 

Aware chair Sam Mostyn said that for funds and the broader Australian business world to address issues around gender equality, boards and management must be held accountable.  

Mostyn is also chair of the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce (WEET), and the group delivered a report with seven recommendations that facilitate women’s contribution to the economy in 2023. One of the immediate actions included was paying super on parental leave, which was actioned by the Labor government on Thursday. 

She acknowledged that Aware itself has work to do when it comes addressing gender pay gaps. According to the WGEA data, Aware has one of the biggest total pay gaps among big super funds (23.6 per cent), compared to AustralianSuper which had an 8 per cent gap on the same metric.

Aware CEO Deanne Stewart suggested the internationalisation of certain member service areas such as call-centres may have skewed the statistics. 

“We’re going to face it and talk very public about the fact that we’re going to work on it [closing the pay gap]. We’re not going to pretend that we’re perfect,” Mostyn said.  

“The way in which diversity must be allowed to flourish means that there’s going to be often quite difficult conversations, but they must be handled with respect.” 

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