Partner, Lynn Dewar, discusses the benefits that come from having a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Tell us about your career journey to date
My career at the firm began 26 years ago in what was then called the Pension Fund team (now the Clients Department). I was the only female member of the team which looked after UK clients, where I worked with four partners.
Although I had client experience when I joined Baillie Gifford, my investment knowledge was limited. To develop my understanding in this area, I spent most of my first year working in each of our investment teams, and subsequently each of the admin and operations areas, which proved invaluable.
When I got my teeth into the client contact role, I was involved in a number of new business presentations. I really enjoyed that aspect of the job, and it helped me to build my own client base. Since then, I’ve remained in the Clients Department, building and developing relationships with our clients, and over time the Department has grown significantly.
Do you feel your gender has presented any challenges in getting to where you are today?
The challenges I have faced over the years are largely pressures I have put on myself; to do well in every role - to be a good client contact, a good mother and a good wife and daughter.
I believe opportunities are available if you are hard-working, interested and enthusiastic, irrespective of your gender. When they do come up, it’s important to make the most of them and deliver. I find it’s often the case that if you do a good job, more opportunities become available to you.
One particular challenge was taking a period of maternity leave. Following good advice I received before I went off, I’ve always tried to be supportive of those who have any period of absence. It’s particularly important to be mindful of this when people return to the firm after being off for an extended period of time – whatever the circumstances may be – as it can have an impact on their confidence levels.
What progress has the Clients Department made in regards to diversity and inclusion in recent years?
In the Clients Department I have seen much change over the years and now 40% of client contacts are women, and a similar proportion are represented on the bonus scheme.
As the Department has grown, we've recruited broadly. We launched our trainee client manager programme in 2011 (we have an even gender split of new starts) and we work hard to recruit individuals who are different to us in terms of background, previous employment and skills. We also provide training for those who are involved in recruitment to help minimise biases.
The Clients Department has good retention, and most female client contacts return from maternity leave. This is largely down to the interesting and challenging role that a client contact has, and the collegiate environment that exists within the Department. A number of my colleagues now work flexibly – men and women – and we’ve seen an increase in the number of male colleagues taking longer periods of paternity leave.
- When it comes to inclusion, it’s important to be open-minded; to actively seek (and value) the opinions of others and encourage those who are less vocal to contribute and share their views.
How do you balance home life with a demanding job?
I love what I do, which helps! I really enjoy working with our clients and I value the relationships, which have been built over many years. Additionally, it’s a role where you never stop learning, whether it be about investments or our clients.
I travel frequently to visit clients, and that can be a logistical challenge with children, regardless of what stage they are at. My family has been supportive and I find being organised helps, too.
It’s also important to have a little time for yourself – whether you choose to read a book, or go to a Pilates class – and not feel guilty about it.
What advice would you give to women keen to progress their careers?
Ask for help when you need it – both at work and at home. It’s not a sign of weakness. Also bear in mind that often you are the person who puts the most pressure on yourself.
Be interested, enthusiastic and hard-working, and don't feel you have to tick every box before you put yourself forward for a new opportunity.
What does diversity mean to you as an individual?
Embracing differences and appreciating the skills and strengths of those around us will make us better and more successful. That’s how I view diversity.
When it comes to inclusion, it’s important to be open-minded; to actively seek (and value) the opinions of others and encourage those who are less vocal to contribute and share their views.