Female Leadership & Investments – International Women’s Day 2021

We were pleased to keep up the tradition and hold KvinnoKapital’s annual International Women’s Day lunch event also in 2021, online. Thank you all who joined.

The theme for this year’s discussion was Female Leadership & Investments and we had the privilege to welcome two very inspiring women, Eva Halvarsson, CEO of Swedish buffer state pension fund AP2, and Barbara Stewart, presenting her tenth edition of her Rich Thinking series on Women and Finance. Read more about our guests

Claudia Stanghellini, Chairwoman of KvinnoKapital opened the event with a short update on the purpose and activities of KvinnoKapital, a network for women by women. We are now more than 230 members, having grown further in 2020 despite the pandemic.

KvinnoKapital arranges networking activities and this year, like everyone else, we found new digital formats to meet. It was therefore especially rewarding to see more than 50 members joining in to listen to our great speakers on IWD!

Karolina Qvarnström, Vice-chair of KvinnoKapital introduced Eva Halvarsson, CEO of the second Swedish buffer state pension fund (AP2). Karolina mentioned some of the valuable lessons she personally learnt from Eva (whom she worked for in the past) regarding leadership, like guiding people – not bossing them, the importance of being kind and how you need to apply a differentiated leadership because people are different and have different needs.

This differentiation was a point that Eva developed further in her fire-side chat with Aline Reichenberg Gustafsson, Chief Editor of NordSIP and KvinnoKapital Board Member

Aline asked if Eva felt her leadership differs from that of men and Eva replied that everyone’s leadership varies depending on organisations and individuals. It is often said that as a leader you should know yourself and treat others as you would like to be treated but, Eva said, that is neither right or relevant. It is crucial to recognise that everyone is indeed different, and that open and transparent information sharing is vital.

Eva also talked about her background. Growing up in a small town with her mother and grandfather she learnt early on to take responsibility for her actions and, even though people around her did not necessarily have a higher education, their support made her feel that she could become whatever she wanted. Eva always felt that she wanted to work in the public domain, at the service of society, which, she said, gives you a purpose.

Do you feel your gender has been an advantage or disadvantage in your career?

Sometimes it can be an advantage to stand out as you do in a male dominated environment but the combination of being a young board member, woman and representing the state could sometimes be a challenge. So, pros and cons, as for most people, Eva replied.

How tough is it today for women to reach leader positions?

I wish it were easier today but that is not necessarily the case. Twenty years ago, when walking into the room together with a man, he was assumed to be the boss – and it is still the same today. I used to be angry, Eva said, but now I am more amused when I see how bluntly our unconscious biases are exposed. And we all have them.

So how can women help each other, and ourselves, to achieve leadership positions?

When I was at the Ministry of Industry and responsible for recruiting board members, Eva said, I met so many women who asked all the right questions, reflected on the role, and then came back saying that they felt they were not qualified enough. Women can be awfully hard on themselves so one important piece of advice is to dare to try. Men do!  We have to believe in ourselves and in other women, she added. A network like KvinnoKapital with such a rich mix of competences in the group can really contribute to changing things.

And finally, about investments, it is often said that women are risk adverse, which impacts pensions and income negatively. What can we do about this?

We need to educate kids more to understand finance. We all need to learn how it works early in life and save our own “fuck-off” money to keep our independence.

And what is the best investment you have ever made?

Actually, the best that I have invested in is education! Other than that, I love real estate and my house in Stöten, in the Swedish alps, is probably my best single investment case, but my advice would be that whatever you choose, invest in something that you are passionate about.

After the fireside chat, Barbara Stewart took the stage to uncover her new edition of her Rich Thinking series, “Hear me Roar – Smart women share investing success stories”.

Barbara is a Canadian researcher, writer and speaker focusing on women and finance, who has a long-lasting relation with KvinnoKapital and regularly finds her way to the Nordics. This Rich Thinking edition will be her eleventh and characteristically it is released on the International Women Day.

This year, Barbara has focused on best investment success stories. It started with Barbara arranging financial saloons with smaller groups of women just before the pandemic started and realising that even though shy about it, when prompted all the women in the room did have a compelling best investment success story to share. So, Barbara decided to make that the theme of her many research meetings during the year. All in all, she conducted 850+ interviews using her extensive network worldwide, across ages, regions and professions.

During her presentation today, Barbara shared many inspiring examples of these women’s best investments, ranging from traditional equities, fund and ETFs (42%) to real estate, start-ups, own businesses and even art. Many of the women were complete investment novices when starting but, much in line with what Eva said, being passionate about what you invest in is often the key to success.

Barbara concluded that over the past decade she could see that women are increasingly talking about investing and little by little closing the gender gap.  And that sharing these positive stories is important to continue inspiring others.

Barbara ended her presentation with an open invitation to keep the conversations going both in the network but also with her, on LinkedIn, on twitter or through her web page, barbarastewart.ca where you can also access All Rich Thinking studies.

A warm thank you to all for participating and especially to our speakers sharing their thoughts with us. We are already looking forward to KvinnoKapital’s IWD lunch seminar 2022 where, hopefully, we call all meet in person again.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here