Why Leaders Need to Care about Diversity

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Eileen Murray is the co-CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates—one of a handful of women to reach the pinnacle of the finance industry. Since she started working in the industry, the percentage of women in senior leadership roles has grown from less than 1% to closer to 20%. But she says that the top leaders at financial firms need to do more to foster diversity—or risk falling behind in the race to innovate.

The numbers tell the story of the challenge. While 90% of financial services firms claim to value diversity, “women still represent fewer than one in five positions in the financial-services C-suite,” according to a survey by McKinsey. The New York Times reported that “less than 10% of United States portfolio managers at mutual funds and exchange-traded funds are women.” A study by Oliver Wyman said that if trends continue, women will reach 30% of executive committees in financial services…by 2048.

Eileen Murray, co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates, has watched the slow evolution of the industry over the course of her career, and says, “I know where we are. I know our reality. Now how do we change that and make the reality something that we’d all be proud of?”

Murray argues that it is essential for the most senior leaders in a firm to make diversity a priority. “If top leaders don’t make it a priority, it won’t get the kind of action and traction it needs,” she says. “The leaders need to be there through innovative change, in my opinion, to basically work through the challenges and difficulties.”

And those leaders need to think hard about how to weave diversity into the strategy of the firm and the incentives of all its employees. “Start to remunerate them for it. If you incentivize people, they figure out a way to get through obstacles. They figure out a way to get what seems impossible done,” says Murray.

Murray spoke with Yale Insights about the benefits that accrue to organizations that can support true diversity. (read more)

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