Under the Microscope: A Closer Look at Unintentional Bias

My Equality Wakeup Call

Hi, it’s Tom Lydon here, publisher of ETF Trends. This week I got a call from a longtime friend and ETF industry veteran, Sue Thompson. Sue is also one of the founders of Women in ETFs (WE), a non-profit organization that has made huge strides in promoting diversification in leadership and mentoring in the ETF business for thousands of women around the world. Sue was calling to let me know that this week’s ETF Trends Virtual Summit was a topic of conversation among the leadership this past week as members celebrated International Women’s Day. 

Here’s Sue’s story…

Susan Thompson, co-founder of Women in ETFs

This week, amidst all of the celebrations of International Women’s Day, with bell ringings at the stock exchanges around the globe, an audience member at one of the events highlighted an upcoming conference. It was an industry conference, sponsored by various companies in the ETF ecosystem. The agenda highlighted the eighteen speakers, all of whom were male.

It would be easy to rail against this conference as a sexist, #TimesUp, example of how women are discriminated against in the financial services industry. But, I think we need to take a closer look, because viewing this at a superficial level doesn’t tell the whole story and certainly doesn’t help us solve the problem.

Here is why. The conference in question is being organized by ETF Trends, which is headed by Tom Lydon.  Tom was one of the first male members of Women in ETFs (WE). He has donated his camera crews and production people’s time to create videos for the WE website. He has highlighted WE in ETF Trends. The sponsors of this conference include organizations such as OppenheimerFunds and JP Morgan, both of which have women (who are also active WE members) heading their respective ETF businesses. Having worked with all of these organizations and people for years, I can categorically state that they are deeply committed to diversity. So how did this happen?

I believe that this is a great example of how unintentional bias plays out. People, simply by running their business without consciously thinking about diversity, inadvertently contributed to a completely non-diverse event.

In this article, I hope to shed light on how these conferences are funded and organized and what people can do in their business to ensure that they are not hijacked by their own unconscious bias.