Closing the Gender Gap in the Financial Services Industry
As a society, we have been socialized to seeing robust male leads portrayed in big money roles in Hollywood films. Think about Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross and his proverbial saying “Always be closing,” or Gordon Gekko on his self-destructive path to success despite the costs.
While most financial world movies depict a robust male lead, what is seemingly missing in these films is the role of a powerful woman. Luckily, times have been changing and the financial services profession, as the gatekeeper to wealth, has a unique position to improve diversity by supporting women and encouraging women’s promotions inside the industry.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report “Female talent remains one of the most underutilized business resources.” (WEF 2017) In some industries, like finance, this is especially apparent.
“Having a diverse workforce is not only the right thing to do, it’s a business imperative. You will lose the war for talent and business if this isn’t a top priority.” – Stephanie Cohen, Chief Strategy Officer, Goldman Sachs.
In finance, as careers advance, female representation declines. Although 46% of financial services employees are women, at the executive level, it’s only 15%. The good news is that huge cracks are slowly being made in a once male-dominated industry and the glass ceiling is starting to show definite wear. A balanced workforce and leadership team has proven more profitable returns for businesses and gender diversity creates for a more interesting workplace, where different views, ideas, and experiences can be exchanged, valued, and learned from.
Women shouldn’t see the financial services industry, especially internal and external wholesaling, as a deterrent, but in fact, tackle the industry head on- and pave the way for a better future and new opportunities for those to follow. Promoting gender balance has become a priority for many companies, seeing women as vital to the success of their business while keeping a competitive edge. Having a gender-balanced workforce has been proven as a factor leading to the successes of many financial firms.
Meet Janieva Gonsalez, a forward-thinking Business Development Officer at Anchor Advisory Services who began her career as a financial scheduler and is currently on par to take her Series 7 exam this month.
“Finding financial services was like finding my niche. It was something I became very good at from the start, utilizing the many qualities that myself and other professional women have: multitasking, organization, critical thinking – they’ve all proven to be useful in this field,” says Janieva.
“Financial services and finance in general, have always been seen as male-dominated industries. The women I’ve met during my time in the field have all been hard working, dedicated, and consistently striving for more. Our male colleagues/bosses/superiors need to recognize, encourage, and help the development of the women they work alongside. Our skills are great alone but it can often be overshadowed and overlooked. Proper support is needed in a field where it is not uncommon to be the only woman on the desk, and this scenario needs to change in order for businesses to be truly successful.”
So why should companies hire women? Let’s look at the facts. A recent Harvard Business Review study on how women outscored over men in leadership capabilities, rated women as excelling in acting with resilience, taking initiative, practicing self-development, driving for results and displaying honesty and high integrity, Overall, women ranked more effective in 84% of the areas of competencies measured in the study. (2019 Zenger Folkmen HBR)
Women have always been thought of as flexible in the workplace, this skill paired with the ability to multi-task, juggling many items at once is essential to any workforce success.
“Internal wholesaling is a steppingstone into a field with an immense amount of growth potential for women,” says Janieva. “While the experience you gain is useful for a continued career in financial services, it will also gain you entry into other fields with growth potential as well. Financial services can help develop universal skills such as an independent, results-driven work ethic, relationship management, and maintaining a positive attitude through sometimes challenging work situations.”
To help women become successful in the financial services space, there are some key factors that businesses should consider to aid success.
1. Mentorship matters.
According to Karen Penney, Vice President of UK Payments Products at Western Union, “Sponsorship within an organization is very important and I believe that it will help reduce gender discrimination in the sector as it will help women overcome the reluctance of putting themselves forward.”
Having a dedicated and reliable mentor, whether male or female, is crucial in helping women succeed in this business. Other important factors are transparency, having the proper dialogue and direction in convincing women that success is attainable within a company.
2. Leaders who listen.
Equally important is the need for active management and support, which will engage trust and aid in the identification of future leaders and ensure women acquire the necessary experience and access to networks to enhance their development.
3. Family-friendly benefits.
Lastly, an environment that allows women to balance their personal and professional aspirations, including equal opportunity for maternity leave are key factors in creating an atmosphere that embraces and supports women equally. Women today play such a wide variety of roles, both at home and in the workplace, and companies (especially in the financial services industry) should acknowledge and support women both in their business role and in providing flexibility for their personal/family obligations.
There is no debate that diversity fosters an environment of participation and contribution. Becoming more gender balanced means companies gather interest, experiences, goals and values of all employees in an effort to promote inclusion, giving female employees a sense of belonging and value.
Companies that are focused on diversity can help their organization attract and harbor talent, which in turn promotes innovation, growth, a positive work environment and in turn foster community relations and overall positive position in the industry.