ETF.com interviewed Corporate partner Kathleen Moriarty in “How ‘Women in ETFs’ is Making Inroads,” about her role in the group’s global leadership team. The article explores why Women in ETFs is a much-needed group and what members gain by joining.
As a pioneer in ETFs, Moriarty served as lead counsel behind the first ETF, SPDR (pronounced “Spider”), which was listed on AMEX in 1993. Since then, she has spent more than two decades winning regulators’ approval for new varieties of ETFs. Her ability to navigate the often complex rules that govern financial markets built her a strong reputation and earned her the nickname “Spider Woman.” Today, Moriarty is involved in bringing a bitcoin ETF to the market. She has seen the industry’s swift rise firsthand.
It’s a growth, she says, that passed many women by. “There still aren’t that many women at the highest senior leadership levels, which is discouraging, considering how long ETFs have been around,” Moriarty said.
“Virtually none of my clients are women,” Moriarty noted, adding that there is, “almost never,” a woman in attendance when she gives a presentation or represents a client on the creation, structuring or development of new funds.
When she was approached by fellow founders Joanne Hill and Deborah Fuhr with the idea to start Women in ETFs (WE), she was uncertain. “My first reaction was, ‘We’re the women in ETFs!’” Moriarty said.
WE has grown dramatically over the past two years to around 1,900 members who represent almost all aspects of the ETF industry: sales and marketing, distribution, asset managers, portfolio managers and hedge funds.
“As it turns out, there were more women in the industry than I’d originally anticipated,” said Moriarty, who serves as a general board member for WE.
Yet there are still gaps, Moriarty says. For example, “The people making new products are almost always men.” She keenly feels the absence of other women in the industry, from precious metals exchange-traded trusts to next-generation virtual currency and blockchain firms.
Although gender imbalances persist, WE helps level the playing field by educating and nurturing new talent while fostering connections between its members. It can also provide men in the industry the opportunity to view their female colleagues’ potential when considering new candidates for senior and leadership positions.
“Visibility matters,” said Moriarty. “WE aims to speak to men—to get them to realize that there are suitable women candidates to fill hiring positions, who have the necessary background and the skill.”
As WE continues to broaden perspectives of those at the top, notes Moriarty, the group could experience even more explosive growth down the line.
“In another couple of years, I think that’s when we’ll see [Women in ETFs] really bear fruit,” she said. “It takes time for people to get organized and figure things out, then more time to implement their insights. So five years from now? I think you’ll see some real inroads made.”
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