For Camilla Sutton, recently appointed president and CEO of Toronto-based Women in Capital Markets (WCM), the time has never been more favourable to create real and lasting change in the investment industry.
Sutton’s desire to see more women playing key roles in this business was a key motivator for taking the top job at WCM in late January – especially as the rise of the #MeToo movement has thrust the topic of women succeeding in traditionally male-dominated workplaces to the forefront.
“All women within the industry face a host of barriers, from unconscious bias to lack of mentorship to an industry that has been structured with a very strong male presence,” Sutton says.
“[But] the civil climate in Canada really is quite progressive and quite historic, so to be part of that seemed like an incredible opportunity,” adds Sutton, who succeeds WCM’s interim president and CEO, Jeannie Collins-Ardern. (Collins-Ardern had filled the role after Jennifer Reynolds left the position to become CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance in August 2017.)
WCM, which has more than 1,400 members, is dedicated to attracting, developing and advancing women working in capital markets. The organization executes its mission primarily through advocacy, networking and professional development.
WCM is a not-for-profit organization that offers programs that provide mentorship and executive coaching. WCM also has the popular Return to Bay Street initiative, which helps women who have taken an extended leave from the capital markets business to re-enter the industry.
In the short term, Sutton’s goal is to continue growing the initiatives WCM has developed, such as its events and networking opportunities. But, in the long term, she foresees advocacy playing a more critical role in producing change within the industry.
One way WCM is engaged in advocacy is by working closely with sponsor firms that support the organization financially and, in return, are advised on how to reach their goals for achieving greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
“What I’ve seen from working in a sponsor firm – and also being close to many of them – is that there is a real desire for change,” says Sutton, who most recently was global head of foreign exchange with Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia. “But, sometimes, the steps to make those changes are cloudy.”
For some firms, WCM presents research that it conducts within the industry. For example, WCM has data on men’s and women’s satisfaction with their careers; what they think of their managers and mentorship opportunities; and if they see progress toward equality within the industry.
Some data can be surprising to firms. For example, the reasons a sizable number of women leave the industry between their fifth and ninth years of work has less to do with family and children and more to do with how they regard their managers and their own value within their firms.
Ideally, firms can use these data to create internal mentorship programs, take measures to deal with unconscious bias and enhance networking opportunities that encourage the recruitment, promotion and retention of women.
“The reality is that having a team that looks and sounds different is hard,” Sutton says. “It requires managers and leaders who are able to listen actively and continually.”
Unconscious bias is an important challenge WCM is working to address. This concept refers to people’s tendency to act more favourably toward others who most resemble themselves. An unconscious bias can develop based on gender, race and even universities attended.
Firms can avoid unconscious bias through training and implementing standard protocols, Sutton says. For example, managers should select a group of job candidates that vary in race and gender, and provide each candidate with the same questions during an interview. The hiring panel also should be a diverse group. Similar criteria would apply when promoting from within.
Sutton has a long history with WCM: her membership dates back to 1999. She joined as a mentee within the mentorship program, and later became a mentor herself.
In 2010, Sutton was awarded the WCM’s Executive Coaching Award, which is part of a program that aims to address the lack of women at the senior management level by providing one-on-one coaching to award winners.
Sutton previously sat on the diversity and inclusion com- mittee in Scotiabank’s capital markets arm. That committee works toward eliminating barriers for women and creating a more egalitarian firm.
In addition, Sutton was part of Scotiabank’s rotational recruiting committee, which required her to spend time on university campuses speaking about the opportunities for women in capital markets and debunking myths concerning opportunities.
Sutton had a lengthy career at Scotiabank. In her foreign-exchange position, she was responsible for managing sales, training and strategy within the division in 2015-17. She ran almost 20 trade floors globally, and worked with clients individually to help them mitigate risk.
Before that, Sutton spent nine years as chief foreign-exchange strategist with the bank. She also has experience as portfolio manager of equities, foreign exchange and derivatives with Toronto-based OMERS’ capital markets division and as an equities research associate with Toronto-based BMO Capital Markets Ltd.
Sutton says her experience prepared her well for the role as head of WCM because she knows first-hand what being a woman in the industry is like. She points out that she was the only woman running a global business in Scotiabank’s capital markets arm.
Now, Sutton is keen to play a leading role in one of WCM’s missions: creating greater gender parity among corporate boards of directors, executive officers and other leadership positions.
However, data from the On- tario Securities Commission published in 2017 reveals how far these goals are from being met, as 74% of new board of directors positions went to men.
“It’s great that 26% [of these positions] went to women,” Sutton says, “but we’re still miles away [from WCM’s goal].”
To encourage hiring more women for membership on corporate boards, WCM is putting together a list of women who are capable and ready, so that when firms are seeking new board members, they have some recommendations at their disposal. In addition, WCM posts open director positions within its network.
A more diverse board of directors leads to a more diverse organization, Sutton says: “The boardroom is critically important because it’s what holds the CEO accountable.”