Skip navigation
Women in ETFs breakfast Wealth Management EDGE Photo by Ledd Lens LLC

Overcoming Challenges Facing Women in the ETF Industry

Several pros who have blazed trails in the ETF sector shared tips for achieving success.

Adapting to ever-changing cultural norms, balancing professional and personal goals and figuring out how to advance to leadership roles are just some of the challenges women must navigate to succeed in the ETFs industry.

Those were some of the themes discussed at the “Women in ETFs” breakfast discussion at Wealth Management EDGE at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood Beach, Fla., which featured Jamie Gershkow, partner in charge of the New York office at the law firm of Stradley Ronon; Chantal Michael, director, wealth management channel, at S&P Dow Jones Indices; and Naomi DePina, ETF sales and training at GTS.

Career Paths

The three women took different paths to get to where they are today. DePina was first interested in a career in politics. She decided to make a change and went back to school to focus on finance. She ultimately ended up at GTS, a market-maker trading firm.

Michael’s background was in psychology. She worked as a mental health counselor and, at age 30, decided to switch careers. She worked in sales as a cold caller and eventually moved up to her present job at S&P, where she influences the way wealth managers use ETFs.

Gershkow attended law school and, like DePina, was interested in a political career. She had a summer internship at the firm she’s at now and returned there after law school. She decided to join the firm’s investment management practice. She became a partner in 2021 and now heads its New York office.

Navigating Inflection Points

The panelists discussed the inflection points in their careers that allowed them to advance. Michael said that after thinking long and hard about her career path, she decided to take charge of her future and make the change. DePina realized that Excel spreadsheets weren’t fun. She changed jobs. At one interview, she was taken to the ETF desk. She noticed that it was primarily men who worked there but decided to try it.

For Gershkow, the mentors in her life helped her decide to stay at the firm she’s at now rather than move somewhere else. She found power and comfort in realizing she was where she wanted to be.

Future Roles

DePina enjoys the human-to-human connection, being in front of clients and building friendships. She said she had a hard time during COVID when in-person connections weren’t possible. Although she sees herself staying in a similar role to what she’s doing now, DePina is aware that she may face some challenges in the future, especially if she decides to have a family and may not want to travel for long periods.

Michael has learned that taking control of her career is essential. She noted that relationships are an important part of this business. Being a woman of color in this industry, she has had a significant impact that brings her joy. She wants to pay it forward by helping and mentoring other people.

Gershkow said she is happy where she is now and doesn’t envision a huge pivot. However, she said women can have different roles in their organizations. She advises that one path is holding various leadership roles and improving the paths of others coming up in the industry.

Building Your Team and Peer Hires

Gershkow recognizes that everyone approaches things in different ways. There’s no right way to do something. She said it’s good to have an open mind and not do something a certain way because that’s how you’ve always done it. She’s learned that people of different generations may have different expectations about how things are done and what’s considered acceptable.

For example, she recently discovered that some people consider it rude for you to cold call them on the phone. It’s better to schedule a meeting. That speaks to the need to constantly adapt to new norms.

DePina emphasized the importance of building a diverse and strong team. Team members can also be diverse in terms of how they think. She advises to avoid being biased about someone’s age. Michael agreed that diversity of thought and experience is important and creates a good co-working space.

Getting Recognized

You want people to recognize the work you do. Michael urges women to raise their hands, be self-starters and let people know what they want, which they sometimes shy away from.

Gershkow agreed that self-promotion can be tricky but advised not to fall into the trap of thinking that good work on its own is enough. She said its important to advocate, including emailing bosses about accomplishments.

TAGS: Careers People
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.