Steve Margitan, Product Specialist for BlackRock Alternative Advisors, the firm’s hedge fund solutions business, tells WiFA about his motivation to be a male ally, his mentorship experience, and much more.

Tell us about yourself.

I am originally from Seattle but moved to Hong Kong after a couple stops in between.  My wife and I settled here six years ago.  Shortly after relocating, we had our first child, and today I have two wonderful daughters.  It has felt like a whirlwind, but Hong Kong is very much our home.

I started at BlackRock in 2016 as part of the Corporate Strategy Team.  In 2018, I transitioned to my current role. Given an early sense of civic duty and a passion for languages, before going into finance I joined the United States Foreign Service and worked in the US Embassy in Beijing.  I also had the chance to live in Chengdu, Spain, and the UK.

What motivates you to be an ally in the financial services industry?

It is the right thing to do.  To me, allyship isn’t something to opt into or take on for select groups, nor is it limited to my work in financial services.  Allyship is about supporting those around me.

Attending both public and private schools exposed me to stark differences in privilege and institutionalized bias. Seeing challenges faced by friends and classmates in my formative years in a Seattle public high school forced me to recognize I benefitted from inherent advantages.  That increased self-awareness helped me become a better ally; that uncomfortable recognition became a motivation.

Professionally, the context is different, but the challenges are similar.  Earlier this year a colleague asked me to participate in a panel discussion on privilege and unconscious bias.  Her ask and the feeling that such an event is needed is enough motivation to be an ally to my colleagues. 

Mentors play an important role in the development of the careers of women. Have you or are you mentoring a woman in finance? Please tell us about your experience.

During my career, I have benefitted from the guidance and support of multiple mentors – some of whom are women.  These individuals created stretch opportunities for me, pushed me to grow, and supported career transitions.  I am grateful for their support, and I try to pay that forward.

A colleague I have been mentoring recently took a new job.  This was a big step for her as the new role represents a change in subject matter and workplace culture.  I know she was apprehensive about the shift, but it was also a great opportunity to challenge herself.  I hope sharing my experiences transitioning between various roles helped highlight the personal growth that comes from job changes.  While she’ll be missed as a business partner in her last role, I am excited to watch her next career steps.

What advice or guidance would you provide men so they can become an ally? What can they do better to support their female colleagues professionally?

Allies are there for support – make sure you are able to support your female colleagues in a professional context.  Mentoring and leading by example in the office typically requires familiarity, so don’t be afraid to take the first step to engage with your colleagues – just make sure to listen.  This can result in uncomfortable conversations, but those conversations are opportunities to learn and become a better ally.