Sharon Bentley-Hamlyn, founder, director and portfolio manager at Aubrey Capital Management, reflects on International Women’s Day and discusses challenges for women in investment.
What does the International Women’s Day 2021 theme, #ChooseToChallenge, mean for you?
I believe International Women’s day should be a celebration of women’s achievements, in the workplace, in the home, and in the community. However, this year’s theme, Choose to Challenge, while encouraging us to challenge artificial barriers to women fulfilling their dreams and aspirations, should also be highlighting the huge disparities that remain in women’s life experience and opportunities when looked at globally. Women in developed nations have made great strides and are hugely privileged compared to those in many parts of the world.
What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?
I was incredibly fortunate in having a loving upbringing and a good education, both instilling a degree of self-belief and a strong work ethic which have served me well. Although as a woman in a male dominated industry you inevitably get put down along the way, those qualities generally win out in the end. It does require courage and persistence and an acceptance that male colleagues do not always see things from one’s own perspective. I have had to deal with bullying behaviour and downright harassment too, and you have to be prepared to stand up for yourself and do what is right.
Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field?
Get the necessary qualifications, be prepared to work extremely hard, be aware that the industry attracts some unsavoury characters, and that the working environment can be intellectually aggressive. Always behave with extreme professionalism in the office and outside it. Accept that men and women are different. Appreciate the importance of teamwork and try to get along with everyone wherever possible.
What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women in investment?
I believe there are deeply held prejudices, particularly in western culture, when it comes to placing large amounts of money with women to manage. This makes it difficult for women to reach portfolio manager status particularly on large core products. There is also the issue of maternity leave and flexible working patterns, which are generally lacking. This is one of the reasons why women often do not return to the industry after having children.
If you can invite anyone in the world for a one-on-one dinner, who would that be?
The Queen, if she were prepared to speak from her vast depth of experience and answer every question I put to her. Otherwise Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin would do just fine.
What has been your most memorable and rewarding experience in life?
Having and raising my son William.
What did you dream of doing when you were a child, and do you still want to do that one day?
Breeding sport horses. I have waited nearly 60 years for it, but my first foal is due this summer. Patience is a virtue, both professionally and in life.
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