The Future of Finance is Female

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According to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, “Female talent remains one of the most under-utilised business resources.” In some industries, like finance, this is especially clear. In finance, as career level rises, female representation declines. Although 46% of financial services employees are women, at the executive level, it’s only 15%. This is one of many reasons why the financial industry has long lamented the small percentage of female advisers. Societal biases discouraging girls and women from studying and entering STEM and business fields has ensured that representation of women in finance, and thus the ability for girls to see themselves in these positions, has remained low. In the US, only 27.8% of senior-level positions in the industry are held by women, according to Marsh & McLennan Companies. How can financial services demonstrate a true commitment to the career progression of women entering the industry?

Here are 5 ways in which women are reframing financial services:

1.     The Gender Gap: Bane or Boon

The financial services has long been considered an “old boys’ club,” an industry driven by established personal connections and male-dominated institutional networks. To some degree, accessing these networks remains elusive for women. Even as more women enter finance, institutional barriers keep them from reaching the highest paid executive positions, known as the top quartile of earners within a firm. Instead of adapting to conventional male representations of leadership in financial services, some women have redirected their career journeys to shape their own definitions of leadership and success.

Take for example Keri Gohman, President of Xero Americas, a cloud-based accounting and payroll SaaS provider for small businesses. Gohman has seen all too many women, including herself, waste energy trying to fit into male-dominated environments. Keri decided to redirect her focus entirely into doing great work, and doing it her way.

“When you take all of the energy spent on fitting into a narrow box and unleash that on your work— magic happens… When I allowed myself to be the boldest version of myself, I realized I was more willing to take risks, to be more powerful — and my true capacity was unleashed.”

This empowered outlook has enabled Keri to build a thriving career that spans insurance, investing, accounting and banking.

2.     Finance: Making Bank or Making a Difference:

For many women, a career in finance is more than just making the big bucks. It’s the feeling of waking up every day, doing what you’re passionate about and knowing that you’re making a difference for what matters to you. For example, Valerie Bannert-Thurner, global head of risk & surveillance solutions at Nasdaq leads a 130-person unit at the exchange group, delivering state-of-the-art technology to identify illegal trading. Bannert-Thurner’s team now provides software to more than 1,700 compliance officers, and has introduced changes to how clients can spot market manipulation. More women in finance brings more diverse perspectives to transform an industry for the better.

3.     Learning Never Stops

In addition to making a difference, the opportunity to bring innovative services to a decidedly establishedd industry is a draw for a career in finance. Emma Douglas, head of defined contribution, Legal & General Investment Management, runs the UK’s largest provider of defined contribution pensions, responsible for a 500-strong team supporting three million UK members. It is in part due to her radically long-term vision that LGIM dominates 18.3% of the UK market, up from 16.9% a year before, and a target of 20% by 2020. In the past year, she has also introduced personalised video benefit statements that led to 14% of members adjusting their contributions, and a new climate-focused multi-asset default option. For many women, a career in finance brings opportunities to improve products and make services more accessible.

4.     The Future of Finance

A decade after the global financial crisis, the finance industry must continue to self-reflect and redirect itself. This is done through opening up the industry to new perspectives and leadership. Nausicaa Delfas, head of Brexit, Financial Conduct Authority, was appointed as the UK markets regulator’s first-ever Brexit head in February 2018. Delfas has the vital task of guiding the FCA through the UK’s exit from the European Union and setting the agenda for its post-Brexit future. It is women like Nausicaa who are steering the future of finance in a particularly turbulent environment.

5.     The Risk Factor

Most senior level financial heads advise young women in finance to take risks and take risks early on. These risks involve trying out different business ideas, roles, locations and areas to build a rich financial career. As Ranjana Clark, MUFG Union Bank, N.A puts it, “Have the courage to take risks. Taking small risks has enabled me to hone my judgment and gave me the experience to take larger risks.”

At WERKIN, we’ve partnered with the Women in Banking and Finance to ensure women have access to mentors in their field. WERKIN provides its technology to WIBF, establishing sustainable and meaningful mentoring partnerships. WERKIN’S nudge technology helps people fit mentoring into their everyday routines, be it grabbing a coffee or inviting a mentee to attend a meeting or professional event. Stronger professional networks for women in finance mean more advocates for the career progression of women in the industry.