International Women’s Day 2022
'Break the bias'

Meet the BlackRock employees who are helping to ‘break the bias’

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a chance for us to celebrate women and their successes, while reflecting on the challenges and biases they face in society and in the workplace. This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is ‘break the bias’, a challenge to all of us to confront and break through those everyday biases and prejudices.

To celebrate IWD at BlackRock, we spoke to six BlackRock Australia employees to learn a little bit about them and their roles, and to get their perspectives on how we can all work together to ‘break the bias’.

Ella Hurley

Joining BlackRock in 2018 as part of the rotational Graduate program in Sydney, Ella worked across Institutional Client Business and Aladdin, before joining the Real Assets team. As an early career graduate, Ella was keenly aware of biases she might face when breaking into the industry.

Question: What are some of the preconceived ideas you had about working in finance, and how has working at BlackRock challenged those notions?

I had a preconceived idea that I would forever be a minority in this industry, mostly because of my experience at University where I was outnumbered by male classmates. I just assumed that it was going to be more difficult for me to work in finance because of this.

However, upon coming to BlackRock, I quickly realised this assumption was incorrect. I was surprised by the number of women in the organisation, and how BlackRock’s strong Diversity, Equity and Inclusion directives have resulted in a diverse group of employees from a range of backgrounds, providing them all with equal opportunity to flourish.

Question: How will you take what you have experienced and learned at BlackRock to break the bias for women in the future?

To me my gender is a point of difference in this line of work. I am often surrounded by men, particularly in investment roles, and so in situations where I am in the minority, I use this to my advantage and to be heard. I always encourage my female peers to do the same, to speak up and to ensure that their voice is heard.

I also think it’s important to flip the question and ask, ‘what are senior leaders doing to break the bias?’ As much as my colleagues and I can push for change, it also needs to come from the top down.

I am incredibly fortunate to work at BlackRock, where I believe this is already happening. By being surrounded by great examples, like those incredible women I spoke about earlier, and male colleagues who are such great advocates, I think we are already making great strides at breaking the bias.

Sarah Glasson

Sarah joined BlackRock in 2015 as part of the Financial Planning & Analysis team, before pivoting to the Head of Corporate Operations role in 2022, shortly after returning from parental leave. Sarah knows all too well the challenges that women can face when embarking on, and returning from, parental leave.

Question: What are some of the challenges that women face when returning to work after an extended period of leave?

While every parental leave is different, there is always one common element – looking after a baby. This takes up all your time and energy, and it’s quite common to forget about the working world. For me, this meant there was an adjustment period when I came back to work. This is only natural, but it can result in a preconception that you are ‘behind’ or playing catch-up.

There is also a lot of guilt. While I loved returning to work, part of me always felt bad for coming back and leaving my child.

Having my husband looking after the kids while I returned to work meant I was able to move past that guilt and focus on the work. I couldn’t be a stronger advocate for parental leave for both parents.

Question: How are you working with BlackRock to ‘break the bias’?

I’m breaking the bias by starting conversations with my colleagues – not just women, but men too. The more you talk to people about these issues, the more you realise how much support is out there. It’s just great to know that other people may have been through the same thing.

I think BlackRock does a great job of taking a longer-term view of female employees. I’ve known so many colleagues at BlackRock that have returned to work with no issues, some have even been promoted. They invest in people, see that parental leave is a short-term event, and look at the bigger picture.

Tatiana Bernard

Tatiana has been with BlackRock since 2017, working with the Multi Asset and Strategies & Solutions team. Prior to BlackRock, Tatiana worked at the ASX, working on quant modelling and pricing.

Question: What are some of the bias and obstacles you have had to overcome that your male colleagues may have avoided?

I imagine things might have changed since I started my career in 2013. At least initially, it was difficult on the trading floor to be taken seriously by some teams. I had to fight to do what I wanted, which was more quantitative instead of a more extroverted, front-facing role. It seemed to be the general idea that if you were a woman, you would be a better fit for particular roles.

Question: How is your work supporting ‘breaking the bias’ about women working in investments?

I’ve never felt pressure to fit into a particular role at BlackRock. In my experience, you are taken for what your skills are, not for who you are or are presumed to be. If you show an aptitude for something, you will be encouraged and rewarded for it. It’s almost relaxing to me that I can show up and just focus on the work, without other pressures.

I’m working to break the bias by treating new starters seriously, by listening to their thoughts and providing guidance. By encouraging and providing a positive work environment, I hope to lead by example for my colleagues and future employees.

Vinod Kumar

Question: What does it mean to be a male ally and advocate?

The role of an ally is to listen—to understand and empathise, to stand beside my female colleagues, and to support them as they strive to break down barriers to their success.

The role of an advocate is to speak up - to recognise and celebrate talent, to raise awareness and champion change, to stand up for my female colleagues, and to call out non-inclusive and retrograde actions.

Question: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a man wanting to advocate on behalf of women?

As a man looking to make a positive impact on gender issues, it’s important to recognise when to be an ally and when to be an advocate, as well as which conversations or rooms I’m welcome in, and which ones I’m not. At the end of the day, when it comes to gender equality, I’m in the socially privileged group and some people will see me as part of the problem, not the solution. However, social issues are intersectional: they combine and overlap. I’m a believer in the “rising tide” and that stronger inclusion and diversity outcomes across the board make everything better.

Question: What are some of the challenges you’ve seen your female colleagues face?

While we are moving in the right direction, there are clearly plenty of challenges facing women which need to be addressed. There is underrepresentation at senior levels, a continuing gender pay gap, the presence of non-inclusive, micro-aggressive or outright harassing behaviours, and reduced access to natural and organic mentoring relationships.

Perhaps most acutely, I see the disproportionate impact that family planning and childcare has on the careers of my female colleagues at a point in time when their trajectory—and those of their male counterparts—is on the up. It’s important that we reduce the barriers, biases and stigma that can be associated with those decisions and encourage, normalise and raise expectations so that men absorb more of that impact.

Question: How are you working to ‘break the bias’ about your female colleagues?

I’m committed to breaking down gender stereotypes and biases when it comes to family planning and childcare. That starts with advocating for more inclusive and fairer workplace practices which will foster and encourage men to take up parental leave and flexible work opportunities, as well as reducing the barriers and biases against parents and carers who are navigating the challenges of their careers and their families.

Niru Raman

Niru Raman joined BlackRock in 2011 as a client relationship manager within the Aladdin Business and is currently responsible for further expanding the Aladdin Business in Australasia. Initially part of a small team of five, she has seen her team grow considerably over the years. Being a woman in fintech, she feels extremely grateful to work at BlackRock, where she has always been appreciated.

Question: How do you feel you are being an advocate for women?

I am a big advocate for the mentorship opportunities that exist at BlackRock. Over the last several years, I’ve had the opportunity mentor several female colleagues in the business. Helping them navigate the organisation and industry, helping them connect and network and assisting them with challenges. I feel strongly about giving everyone in the team equal opportunities to speak up and get established. Making a special effort to make sure that quieter people are being heard.

Last year, I was also fortunate enough to be part of the Director Promotions Committee for the Aladdin Business globally. From a diversity standpoint, it was great to see and influence the inclusivity of this process and how we were able to provide opportunities to people who really deserved it

Paula Gigler

Paula Gigler has been with BlackRock since 2016, working with key wealth accounts, private banks and high net worth clients. Through her work, Paula and her team identified lack of education for women looking to invest.

Question: What are some of the biggest barriers you’ve identified that women face when looking to invest?

Education, without a doubt. A study conducted by Merrill Lynch found that 61% of women say they would rather plan their own funeral than their investments1. Without this education, women don’t have the confidence to invest. Further to this, a recent study done by BlackRock identified that only two out of five women globally rate their financial health positively2.

Question: How is BlackRock supporting organisations and businesses to break through these barriers and biases?

At BlackRock, we believe in the value of advice, which is why we partner with Financial Advisers to give them the tools to help clients invest for their future. For example, our education module ‘Women, Wealth and Wellbeing’ addresses how advisers can educate women and tailor their advice to meet the unique challenges women face. These modules have been well received, and I’m incredibly proud of how BlackRock is leading the way with this initiative.

Ella Hurley
Associate, Alternative Investments
Sarah Glasson
Head of Corporate Operations, Australia
Tatiana Bernard
Portfolio Manager, Multi Asset Strategies & Solutions
Vinod Kumar
Director, Legal and Compliance
Niru Raman
Director, Business Development for BlackRock Solutions’ Aladdin Business, Australasia
Paula Gigler
Head of Key Accounts and High Net Worth