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Interview: “In the end, we want our daughters to have the same chances as our sons”

Katrina Dudley is based in New York City. She is portfolio manager at Franklin Templeton and research analyst, covering the industrial sector. Fondsfrau Anke Dembowski talks with Katrina about her career and how she gets her family life with a husband and four children as well as her job organized.

Katrina, at what age did you get the idea to work in the financial industry? And what was the trigger for that?
When I was in ninth grade, my father asked if I wanted to be a musician or pursue a career in business. After running the numbers, I decided that my chances of a robust career as a violinist were slim, so I chose business. Looking back, I probably have a good instinct to look at the trade-off between risk and reward. This probably led me to join Franklin Mutual Series.

What exactly are you doing at Franklin Templeton?
I am wearing two hats: I am portfolio manager and I am a research analyst. As a portfolio manager, I manage the Franklin Mutual European Fund, and as a research analyst, I cover the industrial sector, with companies such as Siemens, Caterpillar and General Electric. As a research analyst, I pick the stocks in the industrial sector for all of Franklin Templeton’s Mutual Series funds.

You are female. Has that ever been an issue in your career in the financial Industry?
No, not at all. When I was hired by Franklin Mutual Series in 2002, I was five months pregnant with my first child. So the company invested in me, knowing I would need some time off relatively quickly and that I would be going through a significant life change. Meanwhile, I had four children while working here. I think it says a lot about the long-term view Franklin Mutual Series is taking on their people.

How long did you stay at home for each child, before you went back to work?
My children are now 15, 12, 10, and 7 years old, and after each birth, I stayed at home for six weeks. This was my choice, I think I could have taken up to 20 weeks of paid leave.

Why didn’t you stay longer at home with your new-borns?
I respect the choice that stay at home mothers have made. But for me, staying at home was not the right choice. I like my job. I like the interviews with CEOs, the interactions. Every day I go to work is different. I feel that this is good for me and for my children.

How do you do that in practice, with breast feeding the child, organising a baby, and the Job?
We have a mothers’ room here at Franklin Mutual Series, where we can pump for example. What also helps is that we have very good support. Flexibility is a big thing, especially for mothers. For example, I have control over my travel schedule, up to the degree where it is possible in my job. This helps me to match my schedule with that of my husband’s. Here at Franklin, we have a very collaborative environment, which means I have always had support from my co-workers.

You take the effort to mentor women in financial management. What are the most common issues that your mentees want to discuss with you?
Indeed, I have actively encouraged women to enter the field of asset management. I’ve informally mentored many of them. For example, I have reviewed their resumes, and discussed interview techniques with them. One thing I noticed is when women ask me about applying for new jobs, outside their current field, they sometimes are not sure whether they can do the job, although in my experience I have found that they are very well trained and experienced. Men would never say that their skills are rusty, but women like to make sure they can check every box. I encourage them!

How about other female issues, such as how to deal with sexual harassment, with glass ceilings that might still be there, pay gaps between female and male colleagues?
These are issues I discuss with my peers. Although I can say that I have never been in a position where there was sexual harassment.

What do you recommend young women that aspire to make a career in the financial industry? What are the do’s and dont’s in career planning?
I don’t give advice to women in terms of do’s and don’ts. I think women get enough counsel and suggestions. I’d rather like to say what worked for me.

So what has worked for you?
What has worked for me are many things. I have help at home. I have a babysitter/ housekeeper that helps with the house and the children. Also, I give myself permission to not have everything perfect. In the morning, when my kids to school and I go to work, our apartment looks like a hurricane came through. But that is okay, it doesn’t worry me a bit. My children are at school for most of the day and so I don’t feel as though I’m missing out on them growing up while I am in the office. Finally, my husband pitches in. He is very actively involved in managing the kids. I think that is important, and he is also a role model for our two sons. On weekends, however, I prefer to spend time with the kids. My kids have me all weekend.

You have four children, so you really must be an expert in balancing a career and family life. How do you organize this in practice?
I’m a list person. While, I remind myself that everything doesn’t have to be perfect all the time, it occasionally feels overwhelming. If that happens, I take time to organise things. I will divide a page into four parts and write what I need to do in each aspect of my life – from family, to work, to community and personal. Having it on a page helps me to get me to prioritize what needs to get done, and what can wait.

When you want to have a family and a responsible position in the financial industry at the same time: What do you think is important to look at, when selecting an employer?
It is good to look up in your organization and see women in in senior positions. Much information comes from the very top of the company. Is there diversity? At Franklin, Jenny Johnson is our company’s president. She also has five children, and she successfully juggles work and family life. I have a female support network comprised of women in the industry, younger women that I mentor and other working moms. I believe that having a good job and a family is manageable. It is not always easy, but women should just go on and not lose their confidence.

Together with some female industrial investors, you formed a group called the “Iron Skirts” a few years ago. What is the goal of this Group?
The Iron Skirts are a small group of women with extensive experience investing in public and private companies. We have spent much of our careers focused on companies in the Industrials and Materials sectors and related subsectors. The group was originally formed to provide support and networking opportunities for the members. The Iron Skirts believe that women, and diversity in general, add tremendous value to organizations. The representation of women in executive ranks and on Boards is low across industries, and the Industrials and Materials sectors have among the lowest representation of women in these positions. We want to help change the statistics.

ESG is an issue that is getting broader attention in our industry. I would connect diversity to the G-factor. When investing into companies, is diversity – also gender diversity – a factor you are looking at when selecting companies for your portfolios? i.e. when analysing a company, do you also look at the number of women in leading positions?
A company is also its culture. We are particularly focused on the G (as in governance).So we do look at how much a company pays its executives, board diversity, overboarding and other factors that help you understand the governance structure at a company. If there are hardly any women in the top levels, this is something we would notice and pay, attention to. But we don’t have a tick the box approach to investing and governance. We look at the whole mosaic of information. We are also actively engaged. If I see that the board lacks women, I would mention it in meetings with the company. I think that this is better than not investing in a company because the board lacks diversity. In general, I have the impression that people are trying to get more women into senior positions. There is a better understanding that this is something that needs to be addressed. Also, most of us have children, and in the end, we want our daughters to have the same chances as our sons. So I am confident that we are going to make progress on increasing diversity at all companies in the future.

Is there something you would like to tell women?
Besides giving themselves the permission not to be perfect, I also tell them to take care of themselves, especially when you have elderly parents and/or children they are caring for. I am try to get a good night’s sleep, i.e. at least six or seven hours. This is a challenging job, so I don’t want to turn up exhausted each day. Make sure that you take some time out for yourself. In your personal time, you can do what pleases you, read a tabloid magazine, go to an exercise class – I do this. Whatever you choose, it needs to be something where you take time for yourself. We all need this reset. Don’t feel guilty when you do it! It makes you a better mother, employee, and person.

Thank you very much for this interesting interview!

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