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Interview: “Robeco’s Management is more conscious of the diversity Topic”

Wilma de Groot leads the equity quant team at Dutch asset manager Robeco. She likes numbers and research. Fondsfrau Anke Dembowski talks to her about her career and how she manages to reconcile family and job. (The whole interview is divided into two part, and this is the second part).

Do you have fixed gender targets at Robeco?
No, I don’t think that there are fixed targets. But in general, the topic diversity is something we discuss a lot about at Robeco. Also for Robeco’s CEO, I think it is really an important topic. If you look at our executive committee, we have two ladies out of 8. Women are still a minority, but the percentage is definitely not zero. At Robeco, we look at diversity not only in the sense of men and women. Management is more conscious of the diversity topic. The wish is there, but it is a gradual process.

Do you have special programs for women?
We are now trying that the number of people starting at Robeco is more balanced. We might not reach 50:50, at least not in the investment departments, but at least we could come closer to that. So we started with female events for students. As a background: Robeco’s research departments are doing so called “super quants” internships. Out of the applications, we select 10 interns every year, and the best ones get a job offer. Then they become junior, senior and so on. We saw that the applicants for these “super quants” were 80 % male 20 % female, which is not representative for what you see at universities. And if you don’t have any females to begin with, it is hard to let them grow into senior positions. This is why we sat up special events where only female students were invited. Here, we attracted around 100 females who attended, which was an enormous success. So obviously, these special events helped female students to apply. That year, quite many female students had the opportunity to get an internship, and several of them also got a job offer. That is a good tendency, but it needed a lot of effort, much more than just spreading the word.

Do you think that women in general have problems with programming?
Not that I am aware of! It must me other reasons why not so many women are working in the quant department. I know that our HR is keeping an eye on this, for example by formulating job offer texts which are not only appealing to males, but also to females.

May I ask how you manage to combine your job and your family life?
Haha, I think that is quite challenging, indeed! For me, it is helpful that I live quite close to my work. I can cycle to the office in 20 minutes – typical Dutch, by bike! Friends of mine often travel an hour, or even longer. They have to struggle more. By living so nearby, I can bring my kids to school several days a week and still be on time in the office, and get home on time for dinner. This is more difficult when you have a long travel distance. I know that this does not work for everybody. But if you have the opportunity to live close to your work, that safes a lot of time and frustration.

Is there anything else that is helpful?
Yes, my husband is supporting me; he is at home with the kids one day per week. For me, that is very important. For example, now I am in Germany, and I know that he brings the kids to school and will be at home to take care for dinner.

Do you have an au pair?
No, but two days per week, we have help in the house, washing laundry, cleaning and so on. In addition, one day per week, one or our parents is coming over to help with the kids. And the kids go a couple of days to after school care.

Does this give you some time with your husband, to go out for dinner for example?
Yes, we are trying to schedule that now and then. For this, we also have a young lady from the neighbourhood to babysit.

Thank you for the interesting interview!

Foto: Christoph Hemmerich

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