Financial Services firm investigates whether or not a women’s initiative is needed.

Motley Fool

The Motley Fool

The Motley Fool is dedicated to helping the world invest — better. Founded in 1993 by brothers Tom and David Gardner, The Motley Fool helps millions of people attain financial freedom through their website, podcasts, books, newspaper column, radio show, mutual funds, and premium investing services.

The leaders at the Motley Fool wanted to know if they should invest specifically in women’s leadership development. Some of the female employees were beginning to ask for specific programming, particularly around the time that the book “Lean In” was published. However, the Fool wanted to be intentional and strategic about how they responded to the question, instead of simply following the trend.

The Challenge: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

In this fast-paced, growing, ambitious company, it was a challenge to get a clear pulse on the organization’s needs for women’s leadership programming. There were opposing views, individual opinions, personal experiences, and a charismatic CEO who was committed to creating the firm of the future.

We had to carefully craft our approach to make sure we were getting a balanced view of the situation.

Gathering Organization Data

To provide strategic recommendations, Tiara International provided a comprehensive organizational analysis that included:

  • Anonymous statistically valid survey
  • Focus groups
  • Individual interviews

At the end of the data collection phase, the recommendations were shared with the leadership team.


A Surprising Outcome

Being a technology-based, financial services firm, the Fool is definitely operating in a male-dominated field. However, the results of the organization-wide exploration showed that a specific women’s leadership initiative would have been detrimental. It would have singled out women, perpetuating a myth that they need to be treated specially. If we stopped there only half of the story would have been told.

While analyzing the data some other issues were discovered:

  • The current ideal investor archetype was male.
  • Most female employees were in support roles, instead of client-facing roles.
  • Most featured experts were male.
  • There was a feeling of a closed “boys club” at the leadership level. However, both new male and female employees felt this exclusion and pressure.
  • An awareness that the future ideal investor base would likely include women as female baby boomers started to retire and/or outlive their male partners.

The recommendations  included:

  • Expand the definition of the ideal female investor.
  • Intentionally recruit financial experts who represented diverse points of view at the high levels.
  • Roll out a leadership development program that was group-based meeting the preferences of both male and female participants (not just individual, online courses) for all new employees.
  • Shift the leadership team beliefs and practices to create a culture of inclusive mentorship instead of an exclusionary inner circle.

Final Words

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