Head of China, Client Advisor - Bridgewater Associates
BioCynthia Wang started her career as a fixed-income derivatives trader with JP Morgan Chase in NYC, after graduating from CMU (MSCF '97). At the time, China started developing its capital markets and was in need of talent with Wall Street experiences. In 2001, Cynthia went to Beijing to lead the Investor Relations department of a large State-Owned-Enterprise as it prepared for a US IPO. That launched her investment banking career when the industry was just developing in China. She worked at CICC (a leading Chinese investment bank), then Rothschild (European bank), with the largest companies on their fund-raising and M&A transactions. Because of her experience and connections in the energy and technology industries, she got appointed to the Board of Directors at Global CCS Institute, a global climate change think-tank based in Melbourne, Australia. In 2018, Cynthia joined Bridgewater to lead the company's client service and marketing efforts in Greater China.
I see two aspects of improvement: quality and quantity.
1: Quality: Gender equality is more front of mind. It's especially important that people have better appreciation of the contribution women bring to the business, so it's not just "equality for equality's sake". That means women don't have to act like men to be successful. There's more recognition of the need to address the things that could potentially hold women back professionally. So, I'm seeing more benefits/well-being programs that enable women to continue their career better than in the old days.
2: Quantity: There are a lot more strong female role models in the industry, which was almost absent when I first started 20 years ago. The pipeline of female recruits has been very strong too. The trajectory is very encouraging.
What unique challenges do women encounter in their finance careers and how can they overcome them?
There are challenges associated from common biases/stereotypes and there are also challenges that are just facts relating to the gender differences.
1: Common biases: the myth that “women are not good with numbers”; “women wouldn't be interested in finance”; “it's hard for women to build the necessary senior relationships (old boys club) to bring real business”…My personal experience was I just had to prove them wrong by exceeding people's expectations. Over time, I hope there are more trailblazers, so it'll be easier for future generations.
2: Factual gender differences: In general, women are more affected by family responsibilities, especially if you have children. I get asked "how to you achieve work life balance" much more than my male peers. At some point we all have to make some trade-offs. It's very important to have a clear goal and set your priorities. Then build a support infrastructure around yourself, both at home and at work.
Which career achievements are you are most proud of?
I hope my biggest achievements have yet to come -- I'm that optimistic. Looking back, I think the most impactful achievement is getting appointed to the board of Global CCSI, the climate change think tank. I hope the financial community can work closely with industries to tackle this mission-critical challenge to leave a better world for future generations.
What advantages/benefits do companies achieve when employing women quants?
I'm not exactly in a quant role, so let me speak to the advantages of women bankers/marketers/client coverage persons. At the risk of over-generalizing, I think women are good listeners, with strong instincts for problem-solving. It will afford companies broader perspective and better bottom-line when we empower (not just employ) women.
What is your advice to other women considering a career in quant finance?
This is again, not limited to quant, or even finance. I believe women can bring a lot of value to the table. We all have strength and weaknesses. Just find the support infrastructure to let your strength shine and improve on your weaknesses. I'm happy to be part of that support system, just like others have been for me.