When Kerry Drew first started her career in 2004, consultant relations was a very male-dominated environment. In 2012, she set out to change that.
“I would walk into these large industry events to a sea of men who all knew each other and regularly met on the golf course. There were a few women but we were very much on the side-lines and didn’t know each other.” Consultant relationship management is a fairly niche role, there aren’t many consultant relations professionals per firm, and they tend to be close-knit. To succeed, these events were crucial for Kerry to understand the industry and learn how the Global Consultants are advising their clients. “The connections you make at these events can really help to build your consultant network. I was never made to feel left out but I wasn’t fully fitting in either.”
Together with a close friend and industry colleague, she decided to start her own women-in-senior-consultant-relationship-roles network. The idea was to get together a few times a year, have a keynote speaker and discuss industry topics with a view to developing personally and professionally, as well as building a female network.
“We held our first event in a private room in a City restaurant, and had a senior female leader from a major Global Investment Consultancy firm join us to give her views on breaking the glass ceiling. We were 15 women. Three months later we held another and 25 women showed up. I started to get emails from women wanting to be included because they’d heard about the event from a colleague.” Topics are varied and previous speakers have included experts in asset management, life coaches, recruitment consultants, even stylists. Today, the network includes nearly 90 senior women from 50 Asset Management companies in similar roles mostly in London and the UK but also further afield in Edinburgh and Paris.
Speaking about the changes she’s seen, Kerry says “I’ve been pleasantly surprised how many women there are in these roles today. The network has really helped to bring us together. When I started no one was talking about diversity and inclusion or the gender bias or pay gap. Obviously the industry has progressed as well, women are much more present across the investment space. They’ve started the journey towards levelling up and are becoming much more visible.”
The events remain women only, relatively informal sessions. Kerry has considered opening them to a wider audience and charge membership fees, yet she feels it would change the dynamic and stray too far from the initial vision: informal meet ups, run by women, for women seeking to develop themselves. And the organisation would become a full-time job!
While she has plenty of support, Kerry remains the driving force behind the events: finding speakers, venues and caterers, then managing invitations, attendees and all logistics on the day. “There’s always a moment in the planning when I think ‘I’m never going to make it´.
Then I work like mad for a couple of hours and I feel better.” And the overall benefits are huge. “We all know each other now. We’ve created a sisterhood within the boys club!” She admits humbly that her efforts have been personally rewarding as well. “I’m quite well-known in the market now!”
Her motivation to keep the events going extends to the next generation too “I want my daughters to feel they can go into whichever industry they want and not be outnumbered. If we can increase the presence of women in underrepresented industries in the meantime then so much the better.”
Kerry joined Pictet Asset Management in 2019 where she is Senior Global Consultant Relationship Manager. She lives in London with her two daughters, partner and Joey the new puppy!