Womens panel at structured finance conference to be mostly men

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NEW YORK (IFR) - The organizers of the structured finance industry's largest annual conference are adopting a new strategy for tackling the issue of women's advancement - by getting men to talk about it. The 'Women in Securitization' panel at SFIG Vegas, which will be held in Las Vegas in two weeks time, features four men and just one woman. It is the first time men will outnumber women on the Women in Securitization panel since the first one was held at the ABS East conference in Miami in 2015. The discussion will be moderated by Wendy Cohn, a managing director at Fitch Ratings. The other participants include Reed Auerbach, a partner at Morgan Lewis, Howard Kaplan, a partner at Deloitte and Timothy Vara, a managing director at BNY Mellon Corporate Trust. Richard Johns, executive chairman of the Structured Finance Industry Group, which co-organizes the conference with Information Management Network, will also participate.

Several female market participants said they found it strange to have a majority-male lineup for a panel discussing women's issues. "It kind of looks like you're saying you can't find any women within securitization to speak on that panel," said one female structured finance investor who plans to attend the conference. But Johns told IFR the decision was a deliberate attempt to get more men to attend the panel and change their behavior and practices towards promoting women in the industry."There has always been a recognition that the solution cannot solely be about sisters doing it for themselves, so to speak," he said.

"If you are going to have change, you need it not just at the top, board-level mentality, but you also need men and senior executive men who are in a position to do something about this."Male attendance at previous Women in Securitization panels at previous ABS conferences has often been sparse, but Johns said he hoped more men would turn up this year. The men on the panel will be talking specifically about what action they have taken to help women advance in what is still a very male-dominated industry, he said.

"The panel is deliberately comprised of all men, to hear specifically from male leaders in the industry who have benefited from the active promotion of women in securitization," SFIG wrote in a note to its members on Wednesday. Cohn is co-chair of SFIG's Women in Securitization program along with Patricia Evans, vice president of Wilmington Trust. SFIG launched the WiS program in 2014. The initiative aims to "facilitate an environment that encourages women's' ambition and advancement" in structured finance, according to a press release. There were seven women and no men participating in last year's WiS panel in Vegas, four women and three men at last year's Miami panel, and six women and no men at the 2015 Miami panel, according to records.