Robyn Laidlaw is Europe Sales Chief at Vanguard. She has had a successful career and was a sponsor of Vanguard's Women's Initiative for Leadership Success (WILS). We talk to her about what Vanguard is doing in terms of diversity and how its successes are measured.
Ms. Laidlaw, Vanguard supports women in their careers. What's the business reason behind that? Is it more of a business reason or more of a reputation issue?
At Vanguard, we want to take as broad an organizational approach as possible. This includes ensuring that we have both a diverse and inclusive work environment. We believe that diversity and inclusion lead to better outcomes not only in the workplace, but ultimately better outcomes for our investors. Women make up 50% of the world's population, so it is immensely important that we are able to attract, retain and promote women at Vanguard. That means having women not only in the general workforce, but also in leadership positions.
In what ways does Vanguard support women around the world?
We are proud to have an initative called WILS that stands for Women’s Initiative for Leadership Success. The mission´s goal is to WILS support Vanguard's efforts to increase the number of women in leadership positions within the organization. In all regions, WILS-Members host events, share resources, provide professional development opportunities, and encourage conversations in support of this goal. The WILS-initiative is being promoted at the highest levels worldwide, as well as at regional and local levels. Let me give you an example: The WILS-Chapter of our Retail Investor Group (RIG) is committed to creating a culture that develops, supports and promotes women's leadership skills. We also aim to use insights about the needs of women investors to better serve retail clients. This goes back to the point that a diverse and inclusive workplace produces better results both internally and for our investors.
And what is Vanguard doing specifically for female employees in the DACH region?
In the DACH region, too, a large part of the focus is on professional development, networking, and learning & development. Through special leadership development programs, we want to enable women in the DACH region, but also internationally, to make a career with us.
How do you measure the success of your gender equality efforts?
While we have set specific, ambitious goals to make progress on representation and inclusion across our organization, the need remains to drive our progress even further. Leadership accountability is critical to Vanguard's DEI strategy. Vanguard Performance Management Standards have explicit DEI elements for every employee and staff member. Leaders and crew (as we call our employees) alike are expected to "cultivate difference." With this competency, crew are held accountable for contributing to and positively influencing an environment of collaboration, inclusion and belonging - and for building and sustaining diverse teams. For Vanguard, there is no end to our DEI journey. We have aspirations for DEI in our Miatworker Guide and see DEI as an integral part of how we serve our customers. While we are not yet where we want to be, we are excited about our progress and focused on the path forward.
Do you have precise targets for gender equality and is top management measured against them? Is it relevant for bonuses?
We have a responsibility to advance our pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion. Our DEI efforts and our broader talent strategy are key priorities for Vanguard's Board and leadership team. As such, Vanguard's CEO and executive directors serve as our DEI Executive Council. This team drives Vanguard's vision, goals and accountability and tracks our progress. In addition, Vanguard's Chief Diversity Officer leads a team of senior and middle managers to execute the company's global strategic plan and develop and implement best practices. Progress in our pursuit of representation and inclusion influences compensation.
Again, at Vanguard, we really feel like we've created an inclusive workplace. Let me give you the latest example that I really love: WILS founded an Allyship team to build a network of allies for women and create content to help our crew on their Allyship journey. Allyship is an intentional journey of self-learning, elevating the voices of the underrepresented, and creating equity in support of those who are historically disempowered. Vanguard views allyship as an important way that each of us can help build an inclusive environment where all people are treated fairly and with respect, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can fully contribute to Vanguard's success
How does Vanguard work with its portfolio companies to support gender equality? What points does your stewardship team pay attention to?
This is firmly anchored in our investment stewardship program. This program is built on four pillars, namely board composition, governance structure, compensation, and monitoring of risks and strategies. Take the composition of the board as an example: We believe that the exchange of ideas, background and experience, and personal characteristics (such as gender, race, and age) are essential to the board's ability to serve as an effective, engaged steward of shareholders. If a company has a well-constituted, well-functioning board, good results are more likely to follow.
You have a great career and are also a mother. What were the biggest support issues for you personally?
Let's be clear - balancing a career and being a mother is one of the most challenging tasks you can face. I think the key to success lies in an organization that listens to the needs of its employees and understands their concerns as well. Think flexible work policies or childcare and parental leave policies. Most importantly, though, is having supervisors who have open and honest conversations with female employees and provide help and support when needed. A supportive manager can move mountains. I have been very fortunate at Vanguard to always have managers who have seen my long-term contributions to the company on the one hand and difficulties in balancing career and parenthood on the other. What I can really emphasize is one of Vanguard's four core values in Europe: CARE. We promote a workplace culture where caring for our colleagues is what we want to stand for.
How have Vanguard's efforts evolved over the past 10 years since your inception? What are the improvements so far?
It's good to see that we have leadership teams that represent a 50:50 ratio of men to women. But we want to see more. More women in the fund industry, more women in leadership positions. Our WILS-program is helping here, and it's getting stronger by giving the crew the opportunity to learn, develop and progress. And I have to say that WILS is not just lead by women - many of our WILS-Members are men who want to make the industry more diverse and drive change!
What do you think: Will we be talking about gender equality in the fund industry 10 years from now?
I sincerely hope that won't be the case - or at best, only in the sense that we reflect on how far we've come in the last 10 years! I think all signs point to a great 10 years and beyond for women in the fund industry.
What do you recommend to women who want to make a career in the fund industry?
I would wholeheartedly recommend a career in the fund management industry. Not only have I been fortunate to work with some of the best in the industry, but I have always had inspiring and supportive leaders. But the industry still has work to do to attract, develop and retain women. But when I look around, I see so much progress and success: women succeeding in all parts of the industry, from commercial positions to investment management or running large operational parts of a business. Women are mixing very well in all parts of the industry, and that makes me feel like there's a bright future ahead. And don't forget what I've already pointed out: This diversity also benefits customers' earnings results!
Thank you very much for the interview!