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How the AVP of Selby Jennings Supports Diversity in Quants

Posted on March 2023

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Konza Akhtar has seen many countries in her life. She was born in Pakistan and grew up in Hong Kong, then pursued her master’s degree in psychology in the UK. It was in London that she realized she loved working with people and joined Phaidon International as one of the first post-Covid hires. 

At Selby Jennings, Konza found a surprising use for her psychology degree in talent search. Two and a half years on the job, she is now moving into her first management role as Associate Vice President, specializing in placing Quants professionals in the research & trading, portfolio management and buyside/hedge fund space.

What are you proudest of in your career?

“I’m really proud of being a market specialist, and consulting senior quantitative portfolio managers in the hedge fund space. Sometimes, these professionals appear in the news, so being able to work with them and gain their trust and respect is what I am most proud of.” 

Why do you think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day, especially in the workplace?

“I think it is very important to have a day like International Women’s Day that acknowledges what women have faced in the workplace, as some of the barriers we deal with are different compared to others. International Women’s Day starts conversations, and conversations are the first step in making changes. 

“I attended the International Women’s Day celebrations last year at Phaidon International and felt the day was exceptional. The panels that were held felt like a safe space to share struggles and it was great to see the organization acknowledge it as well and appreciate the day. There have been so many changes since then, such as the Future Female Leaders Program and the Women In Sales awards, as well as developments across brands. We know and feel Phaidon International cares and is addressing the challenges we face as women.”

How do you encourage gender diversity internally in your brand? 

“I’ve noticed that I’m starting to raise awareness in meetings, educating others on struggles they may not have considered. Addressing it first is a big step. 

“I also support when we’re interviewing consultants to come work for Selby Jennings. If we’re hiring a female candidate, I think it’s important that they can see someone like them in the business already, demonstrating to them that we have fostered a workplace that is diverse and that anyone can succeed. 

“When we see others being successful, it shows that it is possible, so I hope I’m a proven point of success and an example to other women.”

How do you encourage gender diversity in your sector?

“At QuantMinds International 2022, I took part in a panel on diversity, and I was so impressed with the number of people that turned up from leading banks that were freely speaking about diversity and the struggle they find in sourcing diverse talent. 

Being able to contribute to that discussion was amazing. I provided context guidance, advice and afterwards I had attendees coming to me asking for solutions. I want to continue to be part of these conversations and help wherever possible to improve the situation.”

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d tell my younger self that it’s okay to not have everything all sorted out. You might not be married by a certain age, or have a house or kids. You’ll probably feel younger than you are and you might never really know how to adult, or it may feel like that! 

There are no rules and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want. I wish I was able to have been unapologetically myself, so don’t let comments get to you. If you have been called too direct or too punchy, don’t internalize it, just continue to be yourself.”

For more interviews with the inspiring women at Phaidon International, please visit our hub here.