“Ma’am, you can’t go this way,” the nice man with the sunglasses and automatic rifle said to me politely but firmly. I must not have moved, a bit stunned. “Please step out of the road and on to the sidewalk, ma’am.” So began my journey to the White House.
Once it became clear that the typical path was closed, I walked/jogged in my four-inch chunky heels all the way along the length of Treasury, past the White House, and around the outside of the EEOB, before arriving at the State Place check-in gate. I felt incredibly important as a group of tourists waived me past them in line, it being so obvious (perhaps from the stressed look on my face or my incredibly polished and professional lewk) that I was there on official business. One more security gate after that and I was armed with my official-looking pass, ready to set the world on fire!
Then, well, I couldn’t figure out where to go. My instructions had been to go up the “Navy Steps.” But, as it turned out, there was no obvious (to me) sign indicating, “hello, dummy, these are the Navy Steps.” And, if you’ve ever been to the EEOB, the east side of the building is basically a series of long sets of steps (at least that’s what it looked like to me, there for the first time, desperate not to be late), each of them looking stately enough to be the “Navy Steps.” Pressed for time, I quickly asked someone for help and was directed to a lower level, then to an elevator, and then, finally, to the main floor of the EEOB. Wow.
If you’re a fan of Veep like I am, you may have mixed feelings about the EEOB. After Vice President Selena Meyer gets elected, she arrives at the West Wing with her team only to be told that she will not, in fact, be sitting in the West Wing. She is instead relegated to the EEOB (Eisenhower Executive Office Building), which is an ornately designed concrete behemoth just steps away from the West Wing. But still, in the show at least, it’s a major burn. As it turns out, the vast majority of White House staff cannot fit in the relatively small box (plus oval) that is the West Wing. Thanks for nothing, West Wing.
But back to me. Here I am, standing in the hallway of this remarkable and historic building, flags everywhere. What exactly am I doing here? Here the true privilege of this experience, even beyond being able to tell everyone who would listen to me that I was “meeting with the White House,” arrives. I was meeting with White House staff to discuss the challenges faced by diverse fund managers and what avenues might be available to the federal government (and the Executive Branch in particular) to address them.
Now, this was pretty weighty to me on two levels. The first is this: the White House is thinking about this industry and how f*cked it is. They are thinking about the fact that about 66% of the population (women and people of color) is managing just 1.4% of assets. This isn’t just something that’s being discussed at the NAA, NAIC, AAAIM, RFK, the Knight Foundation, DAMI, PEWIN, WAVE, Milken, or here at All Places. This is a discussion that is taking place at the White House. If you don’t know, now you know.
The second thing is this: in this grand discussion, they wanted to talk to me! Who am I?!?! Apparently I’m someone with enough expertise to warrant a chat with Biden’s staff. This is starting to sound like false modesty, so (to bring out my politician speak), let me be very clear. As I was sitting there talking about the issues facing female fund managers and the various levers that release a relentless pummeling of demoralizing waves, I was reminded that I do have quite a bit to say on this subject. Most of what I have to say comes from all of you—all the women and diverse managers who have hired All Places, or attended our events, or invited us to their events, and were willing to speak frankly about their experiences.
It is brutal out there. There is a reason women-owned firms manage less than 1% of all assets, and it’s not because girls suck at math. It’s for a whole host of reasons, including that women get paid less so don’t accrue the same wealth early in life, women aren’t promoted so they make up a small fraction of decision-makers at larger firms, many women are the primary (or sole) breadwinners in their families and can’t not earn a salary for the 2-3 years it takes to start up a new firm. And then there’s the fact that we are all taught that women should not be trusted with money (even if your family didn’t teach you that, the American media certainly has). The data are so poor that we don’t have very good figures on where this has left women of color in the industry, but we can all fairly assume that it’s really, really, really bad.
That is all to say that there’s a lot (a lot) of work to be done. We all know that getting the attention of decision-makers is an early step. Getting to the point where actions are taken that effect real change may take much longer. But I genuinely feel privileged to be able to contribute in some way to making that change alongside each one of you, out there doing this work and being this change every.