Instar’s Borg-Oliver: DE&I is integral in creating value

Embracing diversity is important, but understanding inclusion is the bigger challenge, says Instar Asset Management’s Sarah Borg-Olivier

Sarah Borg-Oliver

How have attitudes towards DE&I changed in the years you have been working in the infrastructure investment industry?

I’ve worked in the infrastructure industry for 16 years and within the capital markets for many more. When I started my career, DE&I was simply not a topic of conversation in the way it is today. There is now a broader awareness that DE&I is good for business, but if you look at the representation of women and minorities within the industry, and especially in leadership roles, we’re still lacking in action.

Too often, DE&I is perceived as an HR matter. We need to recognise it as a strategic leadership imperative that’s integral to how our companies serve our stakeholders and create value.

In your view, what is the single most important DE&I imperative for the asset class right now?

It’s not enough to simply embrace diversity; you need inclusion to actualise it. That’s where the largest DE&I challenge lies: fostering that culture of inclusivity. There’s a growing awareness of the many nuances and full spectrum of diversity, and how a diverse team cultivates innovation and creativity. But you need to get the inclusion element right. When you do, it’s incredibly powerful and a major driver of organisational performance and resilience.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a leader in this industry? And, conversely, the most challenging aspect?

Infrastructure is first and foremost all about people: delivering essential services and solutions that improve the community, accelerate the economy and lower inequality. That makes for truly meaningful work – and purpose – for anyone in the industry.

While it sometimes feels daunting to be the only woman in the room, I think we bring a unique voice and perspective to investing and relationship management that can really stand out, help to differentiate a team or organisation, and create long-lasting value.

What advice would you give to women embarking on a career in the infrastructure investment industry?

From an early stage, it’s important to seek out mentors – both men and women – to support your professional development and guide you through challenges as you advance your career.

Seek a mentor who will invest time in your success and who will encourage you to become a leader in your own mould – in your own unique way – within your organisation and the industry more broadly.

Coaching and mentoring are absolutely key to closing the gender gap in leadership roles in the infrastructure investment industry.

Sarah Borg-Olivier is chief operating officer and senior vice-president at Instar Asset Management