Meet Jane-Marie Rocca: Making room at the trading desk

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Jane-Marie Rocca is Vice President and Senior Portfolio Manager at Fiera Capital, a leading investment firm in Canada. With 32 years of industry experience, she knows a thing or two about climbing the ranks in a demanding environment. A sharp, courageous woman and mom, she talked to Le Mat Bar about the challenges she has faced throughout her career and shared her wisdom for those of us juggling careers and parenthood.

On the trading desk…

…there were very few women. And still today, according to a recent article by the Globe and Mail, women account for only 12 to 15 percent of trading roles. Very few women apply for jobs in trading, deterred by its decades-old reputation as an “alpha-male territory” and misconceptions about skills it requires.  In fact, according to the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, women accounted for only 28 percent of investment advisers (including traders) at the end of 2017.

A young mom with career aspirations

When Jane-Marie had her child, she had to make some tough choices about how much time to take off.

“At the time of the birth of my only child, I was 33 years old.  I worked as a fixed income portfolio manager and trader for a small investment manager where I was the only woman with investment responsibilities.  Labour laws at the time allowed for 6 months paid maternity leave. I took 2 months off. I did worry that my baby would not know I was her mother, but she did, and she never resented me for working hard.

“There were a couple of reasons why I returned to work early.  The most important was the company I worked for was going through some major changes with a partner leaving.  I felt my career would suffer if I was not physically there while they were assigning new roles to existing and new employees.  Also, I was not working for the government or a major company so there was no top up to my employment insurance.”

Mom guilt never fails

Jane-Marie points out that women are often the first ones to blame themselves when things go wrong.

“I had an outside caregiver but it was very stressful when your job and child needed your full attention and you felt that you were always letting one down.  Women hold themselves to a higher standard than men. I felt many times it was my child that suffered. An example would be forgetting to send ice skates to school and worrying the child will be left out of gym class as a result even though my husband dropped off and picked up our daughter from school.”

Adapting your career

Even with the tremendous success she’s had, Jane-Marie is certain motherhood impacted her career. She stayed in a position with limited travel, even when her child was older. People in her industry didn’t hide the fact that they expected a woman to make career adjustments.

“I was asking for career counseling from a male acquaintance who recommended postponing a job change if travel increased,” Jane-Marie recalls. “He made me feel selfish if I took that path too early, because it would put too big a strain on the family.”

Still room for improvement

Jane-Marie points out that parent-friendly policies shouldn’t end with parental leave. And you can’t make them work without getting buy-in from other employees.

“I think financial firms have made progress with both parents able to take maternity/paternity leave but it has to continue as the child ages.  Working from home if possible has gone a long way to help employees manage their personal life even if they don’t have children. Even when an employer has flexibility, it is hard for the remaining employees to embrace this because in some cases they are picking up the slack and feeling a little abused.”

Her main lesson for mothers? Let go of the guilt immediately and reach out for help: “My words of wisdom for working mothers are it is quality not quantity and don’t get sucked into someone making you feel bad about yourself because you work.  Don’t be a martyr - you can’t do it alone.”