Here’s an interesting question, in an age where gender equality is frequently at the top of the media’s agenda, where are the women in senior roles at family offices?
Take any sample of single-family offices staff and there are few women in senior roles. Maybe that’s because family offices have been able to get away with hiring fewer women, compared to businesses more in the public domain.
“The gender gap has been top-down ‘policy’ driven so those firms who feel themselves to be under scrutiny have responded first, whereas those like many family offices and privately controlled businesses which are less visible have found themselves feeling able to respond less,” says Rhian-Anwen Hamill, director and co-founder of the executive search firm, RAH Partners. “That’s a mistake.”
Of course, there are a few women in senior roles (see below), but for the most part, the sector is very much a male preserve. “The stereotyped view of the masterful, experienced, eminence grise, trusted advisor type is still largely male, unfortunately,” says Hamill.
But aren’t family offices missing out on the expertise women can bring? Hamill thinks so. “Many senior women would be highly capable in senior roles at family offices,” she says. “Women who run their own households, as well as their own careers, are often excellent at holding in balance a multiplicity of demands. The multi-tasking between business and financial demands, and the emotional and psychological complexities of family situations are often very well handled by women.”
Here is a list of some of the more prominent women at single-family offices. Some are from the family owners, others are non-family professionals. All of them are based in America – take note Europe and the rest of the world. They are blazing a path for others of their gender to play a bigger role in the most exclusive part of the world of finance.
Kristin Gilbertson, chief investment officer, Access Industries, the investment office of billionaire Len Blavatnik
Adrienne Eckart, chief financial officer, William A.M. Burden & Co, one of the oldest single-family offices, which manages the money of descendants of the Vanderbilt and Burden families
Susan Yun Lee, managing director of investments, Eli Broad Family Office, a California-based investment office for the Broad family, who made their money in construction and insurance
Sherry Pryor Witter, partner and chief investment officer, Witter Family Offices, one of the old Wall Street financial families linked to the eponymous firm founded by Dean Witter in 1924
Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Liesel Pritzker Simmons, principal, Blue Haven Initiative. Liesel is part of the Pritzker family dynasty
Lynn Forester de Rothschild, chairwoman, E.L. Rothschild, the investment office of Evelyn Robert de Rothschild