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Gender Equality in Financial Modelling

08 December, 2017

Congratulations to Alvin Woon, the new 2017 ModelOff Financial Modelling World Champion! Every year, 16 ModelOff finalists are flown to compete at the Microsoft headquarters in New York or London. Yet again, not one female made it to the finals and when the organisers posted an image of 16 finalists of varying age, ethnicity and background – but all male - it predictably sparked a storm of online criticism.

The first couple of years ModelOff had at least one female finalist and in 2013 Hilary Smart won it but that victory was short-lived because the last two years running we’ve had male finalists only. My view is that the ModelOff attracts men who thrive on competition whereas women don’t feel the need to prove themselves. Even if we can explain the result, it doesn’t help. It’s an embarrassment to our industry that we can’t provide at least a few female modellers – I know there are plenty of us out there! My financial modelling training courses are always at least 50/50. Personally, I’ve never competed because I no longer model the long hours I used to and although I’m an industry expert, I don’t think I’d make the finals and I don’t need to put myself through it. Do all female modellers feel that way? 

The finalists are “chosen” by two anonymous online rounds so the selection panel doesn’t see race, age or gender when assessing the scores. It’s entirely skills-based so there’s no way that bias can come into it – the problem is that women simply don’t enter the competition. Finding female speakers on the topic is apparently just as difficult. I was the only female speaker at the Sydney ModelOff GTC for the past two years running and that's just GOT to change. I know the organisers well; they are keen to address this problem and want to hear from the financial modelling community. I’ll be meeting with them soon to discuss how we can tackle this issue and I’m keen to hear what ideas you’ve got to attract more women!


I am NOT at all against there being more female financial modellers (or in any other working role for that matter), but I am vehemently against unsupported and specious arguments that demand action to be taken to force equal numbers (or even "proportionate representation") of each gender at every level of society merely for the sake of it, as seems to be the fad of recent years. Gender is ONLY ONE of many characteristics of diversity, so why should it be given such prominence and priority over the others? In that context, I ask the following questions: "I was the only female speaker at the Sydney ModelOff GTC for the past two years running and that's just GOT to change." Q. Why has it "GOT to change"? "I know the organisers well; they are keen to address this problem..." Q. What exactly is "this problem"? "I’ll be meeting with them soon to discuss how we can tackle this issue..." Q. What issue?

Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 15:15.

Women have better things to do.

Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 15:16.

I am certainly not advocating a quota - how on earth would you do it, anyway - lower the entry score for women? Not likely! Of course it's a problem - it's the elephant in the room. Every industry needs diversity and there's definitely something wrong if year after year we only see the same male faces. Aside from my obvious qualifications as a female financial modeller, I'm certainly no diversity expert and I'm hoping for some guidance on how to address it. With regards to the speaker line-up, I have even more of an issue with this because these speakers are deliberately selected, it's not an anonymous skills-test. The organisers are white males and so are most of the speakers.

Submitted by danielle on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 15:46.

It certainly is an important issue. When I saw the article on LinkedIn, I too was thrilled for the finalists but disappointed at the lack of female representation. I'm heartened to hear that this wasn't a result of some subtle or overt discrimination and I commend the organisers for ensuring no conscious or unconscious bias creeps into the process. I think a good discussion point might be how the competition is marketed/promoted. Can consideration be given to specifically targeting women to encourage them to engage in the competition process? Perhaps include managers and HR in the promotional process and encourage them to nominate employees. Can industry groups and professional associations help? Creating awareness will be key, but that's a long and often slow solution. Good luck with it all Danielle! Virginia

Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 16:02.

In my recent training of accountants (8 days of intermediate and advanced) the ladies easily outnumbered the guys. Pretty sure the numbers in CPA Aust have more ladies in the younger age groups; about equal in the middle age groups and more guys in the older age groups. Maybe the ladies aren't as competitive as the guys and aren't as interested in the Model Off comp.

Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 19:31.

Danielle: I accept your point/s (to a degree) about the speaker line-up, and in regard to quotas which are definitely wrong. However, in regard to the competition, and as per my previous comments, what specifically is the problem [you see] and what is the elephant [you see] in the room? I'm not saying these don't exist, but I'm yet to see them logically articulated by anyone. Why does the modelling industry need diversity, whether gender or other? Is the next step to demand the competition organisers prepare a detailed demographic analysis of the last 5 competitions and then demand that in future there is proportionate representation of every segment registering more than, say, 5% of the participants? Of course not, that would be patently absurd - but I hope you can see my point. Even if females were just 0.1% (I'm just picked a very low number to demonstrate) of those who entered the competition, why is this a "problem" per se? Is it not just an outcome that results from the numerous different motivations of and choices made by the target population (as per the 2nd comment above), without there necessarily being any bias (whether so-called unconscious,/em> or otherwise) or anything untoward involved (i.e. it just is what it is)? The ModelOff competition is there for anyone (of any gender) who is interested in participating, and I have seen nothing to suggest that the marketing and promotion of it is biased in favour of male modellers, so I strongly disagree with the special treatment suggested by Anonymous on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 16:02. ModelOff is a financial modelling competition - not a battle of the sexes!

Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 21:07.

I support equal opportunity; not gender equity.

Submitted by Anonymous on Sat, 09/12/2017 - 07:45.

"I support equal opportunity; not gender equity." Hear, hear! Equal opportunity should be the goal, but most unfortunately the agenda has been hijacked by the gender equality zealots (who don't even pursue gender EQUITY which is more noble!). Gender equality (a straight 50:50 numbers game) is no more than a
of equal opportunity (i.e. no discrimination) when the available population (e.g. candidates with requisite skill, etc.) is equally split (which occurs in very few situations!), rather than the goal itself.

Submitted by Anonymous on Sat, 09/12/2017 - 15:47.

As one of the sponsors for the competition, I echo the sentiment raised by Danielle. Other competitions such as the olympics do host separated gender-based events (ex: men's fencing and women's fencing). This is not a new issue however, as other industries also face diversity challenges: https://blog.evernote.com/blog/2016/08/02/lessons-from-evernotes-2016-interns/

Submitted by Anonymous on Sun, 10/12/2017 - 05:19.

perhaps best solution appears to be reserve 4 of the 16 finalist positions for women and split the prize into two: a male prize and a female prize with more prizemoney for the best of the women and man. I disagree strongly with the comment: "women don’t feel the need to prove themselves." (Danielle) Instead I understand it is more recognised that women avoid competition when there is more pressure to win - primarily because the women vs. men syndrome is destructive. Women in particular do not like to lose when the competition becomes men vs. women (a key reason why women are less inclined to apply for promotion) Hence whilst trying to encourage women the effect is often the opposite. Better to ignore trying to encourage women and just treat them as people. My only other comment is that women are often more social, and the ModelOff is focused on individual ability. It is not surprising that it is male dominated. Mathematicians have there own group called MISG (mathematics in industry study group). It is is not a competition. ModelOff should remain an individual competition, but thought should be given to cooperation-based events.

Submitted by Anonymous on Mon, 11/12/2017 - 08:25.

Oh gawd! What on earth justifies compromising the outcome and integrity of the competition (which has no gender bias whatsoever in its structure - it is simply a contest to determine which participant has the best financial modelling SKILL, irrespective of gender. Nor is its purpose to create a billboard of role models) just to cater for women's perceived disdain for competing, or because they "do not like to lose when the competition becomes men vs. women", "women are often more social", etc. etc. Enough already with the lame excuses, and finding specious arguments to justify your misunderstanding of the competition. This is akin to the social meddling of not keeping score in a kids' football match and then giving everyone a medal just for showing up! If you really want more women to appear in the ModelOff results then go encourage those who are reticent to enter and give it their best shot. As the old saying goes: "You've got to be in it to win it."

Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 12/12/2017 - 13:26.

I am anonymous, 11/122017; and here I am responding to anonymous 13.12.17. Just to make it clear I was not providing excuses. I was simply stating the facts. If you read my comments more fairly I was (politely) suggesting that either change ModOFF to suit women OR create an event that is likely to attract women. In other words (using polite language), I was saying don't change ModOff, but create another event. I think you also missed my other point. I was arguing against the reason (which you call excuse) that 'women don't need to prove themselves', and was providing an explanation as to why ModOff as is is not likely to get many females. And if you read my comments you should notice I did not say lack of females must change. Only if you wanted more females then ModOff must change. I was also conscious that the ModelOff sponsor (10/12) indicated that the situation had to change. Frankly I do not think that comment by the sponsor was particularly helpful as it meant that Danielle's post (which was encouraging discussion) has lead to a power-conflict between those who want to keep ModelOFF as is and those who want to change it for no other reason than to encourage female attendance and more female finalists. Even though I was anonymous (and for good reason because of current socially-conditioned anti-male society as demonstrated in the topic) I still don't like being misinterpreted. I remain of the view that it is better to create a separate additional event (and by separate event I do not mean scrap ModelOFF as is). I believe this was fair compromise and good grounds for discussion. However it appears that the discussion has indeed turned into an extremist polarisation of views. "As is" on one hand, "feminist at all costs" on the other. I am disappointed my suggestion was not well-received but I have better things to do than try and be reasonable with extremists. All the best...

Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 13/12/2017 - 11:06.

Anonymous on Wed, 13/12/2017 - 11:06 What is the reasoning (I find it difficult to call it justification) for either changing the current ModelOff competition, or creating another event, just so there is something "likely to attract women"? Why is the M/F count even relevant given that it has already been well demonstrated that the ModelOff competition is NOT inherently gender biased (unlike some physical contests like athletics, etc.) Rather, ModelOff is a competition of mental skill to find the best financial modeller/s - of any gender - in the world (what could be better than that?), rather than the best male and female modellers. By all means encourage more women to enter, but there is absolutely no justification for compromising the competition's integrity by changing the way it's conducted or by creating separate competitions for each gender which will just perpetuate the gender argument by casting doubt as to which gender is the best. It's an interesting concept to be considered an extremist when I am very keen to hold the middle ground by keeping the gender argument well out of places where it has no place! In regard to the polarisation of the [unnecessary] debate, it was the gender equality advocates who for no sensible reason started frothing at the mouth about a gender agnostic competition that produced an outcome which didn't suit their ideology (If you read the original LinkedIn post it is patently obvious that most of the criticism was from those who saw the headlines and immediately shot from the hip without bothering to do any research into the competition.) I rest my case, for I too have better things to do - but I won't resile from calling out those who offer specious arguments (or no argument at all) in an attempt to fix what ain't broken just to suit their ideological position.

Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 13/12/2017 - 19:52.

Response: There are issues about definition of gender equality (and by the way i was also the one who said I don't support gender equality; just equal opportunity). I do not agree that athletics is gender-biased whereas M/F is not. Note for example that there is a women's chess championship; and to my knowledge there has never been a female world chess champion. Hence chess, without separate competitions would be gender biased as would athletics. (Instead there is a women's world chess championship). In my opinion (for reasons already given in previous comments) M/F is also gender-biased. I think it is a reasonable position to encourage women. I don't understand why this position invokes hostility. I remain of the view that the issue with the post is the opening position of gender equality rather than just increasing the involvement of women. They are two different issues. I have not at any time advocated gender equality. I do however support equal opportunity and increased involvement by women. But to be be frank if women are not interested in any event at all (as evidence of lack of supporting comments) then why bother? So probably flogging a dead horse anyway. Anyway I thought it worthwhile to give final clarification. All the best...

Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 14/12/2017 - 11:48.

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