Why Warren Buffett invests like a woman

women in financeAt Female Breadwinners, we encourage women to take more control over their family’s finances – especially in investments and savings. In dealing with thousands of male and female clients, we have found that women are more prudent and cautious in their investment strategies. They hold onto stocks for longer, perhaps cynically because they often have less time to ‘watch the market’.

Certainly my own experience mirrors this. My husband loves to watch his stock portfolio move and will fill me in on the lurid details, while I just keep sending in my monthly cheques to my pension plan, salting it away like my mother taught me.

The long-term benefits of “investing like a girl” are now being backed up by research. A seven-year study by the University of California found single female investors outperformed single men by 2% percent and female investment groups outperformed male counterparts by 5%.  Male investors were found to be trading 45% more than women, leading to more bad decisions and lower performance.

Men are often overconfident investors looking for one-upmanship in their stock picking. As LouAnn Lofton, author of  “Warren Buffet Invests Like a Girl: And Why You Should Too: “With men, too often investing is all about keeping score. It’s a macho thing. They’re looking for hot stock tips to get the quick win and then talk about it.”

This overconfidence has dire repercussions. A Washington Post article on Behavioural Economics mentions: “Women are more loss averse than men, more emotionally unattached and are far quicker to unload losers [losing stock]. Whereas men with their bravado, they don’t want to admit they’re wrong.”

Financial organisations would do well to have a few more cautious traders on their floors. Hiring more women would mean less overtrading of accounts, more long-term planning and less volatility. For example, Britain’s Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (which studied the 2008 crash) recommended this strategy, including gender diversity in banking and stringing out bonuses over longer periods of time. Seems like the smart money is in investing like a woman, just like Warren Buffet.

Does your approach to investing differ from the men in your life?

When Women are Asked to Sweep Up: A Glass Cliff or Great Opportunity?

I recently spent the day talking about the need to take risks for a successful career with a group of female Doctors for a NHS Leadership conference. What is so interesting is that most women, when first asked, will shy away from thinking of themselves as risk-takers. However, when they begin to explore the history of their career and even personal life, many of the most interesting and rewarding roles came out of a big risk. One female CEO I interviewed for my first book Beyond the Boys Club remarked that while she had developed a reputation for taking on challenges – “I think my career has been defined by probably just 2 or 3 big risks. I just had to deliver on the dew I chose.”

Rather, the challenge is in determining the difference between a “Glass Cliff” and a great opportunity.  Christine Lagarde, MD of the International Monetary Fund remarked on risk taking when speaking at Davos recently. She felt that while women may be increasingly willing to take risks in their career, companies are not always willing to take a risk on female leadership. Instead they wait until a situation has reached crisis point. As described in the Telegraph, Lagarde said: “Women generally get the job when it’s … a basket case, a lost cause – and they turn it around,” she said. Ever politically astute, she held back from making any mention of her own appointment to head the global lender and watchdog, at a time when the world economy is mired in crises.

Often, I work with clients when they are judging if a new opportunity will jump-start their career or be a glass cliff. If you are considering a glass cliff, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Who was in the role before – and how did they leave?
2. What’s the average length of time someone stays in this role?
3. What kind of public support have I been given and what kind of resources will I have?

Shining a light on these answers can help you determine where the fact meets fiction on a new challenge.

Schadenfreude and the Sisterhood

I recently attended an event at my club, the University Women’s Club in Mayfair in London. It was a roundtable discussion on collaboration between the fashion, architecture and science industries. I had just spent the day coaching at the Sanger Centre, so the topic had great resonance for my work with scientists. As we were discussing, one of the speakers remarked on the challenges she faced in bringing projects to fruition and the lessons these “failures” imparted about risk. She said “Risk means having to bear other people watching you fail.”

That struck a deep chord with me. I have faced many naysayers who have been surprised at my choices: to move to Europe, to leave a well-paid job to set up my own consultancy, to focus my work on a niche group of women – those who work in male dominated fields. Every step of the way, other women, and some men, have questioned my wisdom in making those choices. Each time, when things felt ‘wobbly’, I have felt all too acutely the gaze of the ‘sisterhood’. Taking a risk means opening yourself up to public scrutiny and potential failure – whether it be a move to a new role, starting something on your own, even moving to a new industry. Schadenfreude; the pleasure in watching others struggle and even fail, comes to mind. The key is in remembering that you are mostly being ‘watched’ by people who actually want you to succeed and who may resent you simply for making choices about which they could only dream.

Women Good at Closing Ranks to Gain Upper Hand

According to a new study to be published by the Association for Psychological Science, women may not be less competitive than men – they may just be using a different strategy. The study involved volunteers playing a game against two other competitors which accumulated points for money. The participants were given three options of how to play; by themselves, with one other partner forming an alliance against the third, or by all competing together and splitting the profits. With these instructions there was no difference between men and women in the number of times they chose to form an alliance. However, when some of the volunteers were confronted with the possibility of social exclusion by being told that if they selected the compete alone option they would “run the risk of being excluded by the two others” female volunteers chose the alliance option more often than men. The option of preemptive social exclusion was more favourable to women, despite the worry of alienating others, than being excluded themselves, whereas men were more concerned with being beaten. Read more stories on risk taking and office politics here.

Is Your Job a Poisoned Chalice?

Are women appointed to top jobs set up to be scapegoats for problems they didn’t create?  The Harvard Business Review recently looked at this phenomenon they called the “status-quo bias” where a male-run company that is doing well was looking for a new CEO, 62% would prefer a man. However, if the company was facing difficulties, 69% wanted a woman. Bruckmuller and Branscombe, the lead researchers say: “As long as a company headed by a man performs well, there is not a perceived need to change its leadership. Only if male leaders have manoeuvred an organisation into trouble is a switch to a female leader preferred”.

So it’s business as usual until there’s a problem. How do you climb the ladder while avoiding this glass cliff? Start off by accepting a degree of risk-taking is inherent in any job. However, as Michelle Ryan of the University of Exeter points out: “They are often appointments where everyone else is hanging back and the woman is approached by someone saying ‘you say you want more responsibility and to progress, here’s your chance.’ It is key to understand you will only be able to turn things around by getting the public support of senior staff and board members. Make this your first job before taking on any senior position. Find more stories on career planning here.

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