Early in my career, I was fortunate to be introduced to a dynamic investment team that provided opportunities for growth with merit. I began in a research capacity, but was transitioned to portfolio management and then, head of an investment strategy that centered on integrating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into the fundamental research and stock-selection process.
Given my lifelong desire to give back, the ESG investment approach has been a perfect way to express both my personal and professional ambitions. Social issues and climate change were not common discussion points at traditional Wall Street investment firms when ESG was first introduced, yet I felt strongly that ESG issues could not be extricated from the investment process, and were important factors for many of our clients.
Our investment approach had to prove itself through strong portfolio performance and our ability to make an impact as shareowners. At ClearBridge Investments, our ESG program seeks to improve society and protect the environment by promoting corporate best practices. Through ESG investing, I believe I have been able to make a significant impact by staying true to my passion to give back.
On Doing the “inner work” you need to succeed
As I have progressed in my career, I’ve learned that adversity is often a good teacher. You can gauge your strengths, endurance, and ability to problem solve through difficult times. I believe I have been successful in my career by engaging in honest self-evaluations and critical thinking. While it’s cliché to suggest one should “think outside the box,” I have found that that is where the interesting and challenging experiences can be found.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
The women in my family have had the most influence on my life and my career. My mother was an incredible role model who unfalteringly showed strength, compassion, dedication, discretion, and generosity—values I have tried to emulate. She was mindful of risk-taking, but had a sense of adventure and a great sense of humor. She stressed that education and learning should be sought after in school and in life, and that the more we learned, the more responsibility we should take on, by addressing such issues as poverty or human inequity. My sisters showed me that no goal is out of reach. And my little daughters remind me that mothers have a lot on their plates—and that I am a role model to them every day. So I have to be aware that everything I do in front of them will be recorded in their fertile minds!
Mary Jane’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
If possible, find a mentor in your organization whom you respect and whose philosophy and values are similar to your own. Don’t limit your search—your ideal “mentor” may be in a different department. I’ve had many mentors in my company over the years; a few were assigned to me in a formal capacity (i.e., my managers), but many were colleagues who did not even know that I viewed them as role models.