Recently I found myself at a hedge fund conference before a panel discussion about women in hedge funds. I was there to feel out the participants on their ideas about women’s advancement in this field, but had regrettably come away with a sour taste resulting from the unfortunate outlook of one particular male attendee.
First, A Little Background
The general consensus among many hedge fund folks concerns the 2 and 20 method of manager compensation (2% of the total asset value as an initial management fee, and an additional 20% on any profits earned). Some feel that these rates are high, and that a 1 and 10 compensation structure (the discount rate normally reserved for higher-rolling clients) is more appropriate for these deals.
There’s One in Every Room
During one of these compensation rate discussions, the aforementioned man, chiming in from the audience, offered up what amounted to an insulting, sexist proposal that changed the mood and shifted the conversation in everyone’s mind. His idea was that if women hedge fund managers wanted so passionately to attract more clients, they should concede by accepting less than 2 and 20 across the board. One response, delivered by a woman with much more self-control than I would’ve had, is that women are already underpaid compared with men, and that offering such a “blue plate special” would be a major social step backward.
Part of the Problem
The fact that such a proposal was even conceived of exposes a larger issue in business culture. Did this guy think he was being cute? Did he assume the other men would laugh along with him? Or did he consider his idea to be clever and appropriate? Regardless of the truth, with one insensitive inquiry, he demonstrated that he didn’t take the challenges women face in hedge funds or other professions seriously. In doing so, he indicated how he and some other men like him, who haven’t been victims of discrimination, can be so out-of-touch. If men in general don’t understand professional women’s pains, they will not be motivated to help devise solutions. In the perfect world, another man in the room would have, at the very least, said something to address the man’s snarky attitude.
Collaborating on a Solution
Part of my career mission is to help men help women in business. More evolved men want to assist in advancing women professionals, as is proven by how many such men attend our events to discover how. The message I send out to these gracious men includes this: The most impactful action a man can take is to stand up to jokesters and chauvinists like the man at the hedge fund conference, and put things into perspective for him. If you’d like to learn more in this respect, I invite you to join our progressive community, starting with our very next event.
Oh, and the man in question….I noticed that he didn’t stick around after the first discussion break.