Business Finance

Being a Female in the Finance World

First, you need to have a dream; second an idea of what your goal is, and third, passion. Obviously having the skill set and working hard is important, but if you don’t have a dream and a goal, then don’t be surprised when you don’t get there. And if you don’t fill your dream with passion, then you can become disheartened about your career choice during tough times. And there are always tough times in a cyclical business like finance.

In these very words, the CEO of Morgan Stanley China, Ms. Wei Sun Christianson,  has beautifully summed up the struggle and the prerequisites for a woman to survive in a highly competitive industry like that of finance. 

Conventionally, the finance industry has always been more male-dominated. From the fact that women only accounted for 42 percent of the class in Harvard Business School in 2019 to the fact that women account for only 21 percent in senior positions (aka the C-Suite) and that the total representation of women at the entry-level has remained almost constant at around 45 to 47 percent in the past 5 years, this goes on to show the feeble position of women in the finance sector. (Refer to the figures below). Even in India, women in the workforce in the finance industry only accounted for about 12 percent in the year 2017.  

Source: Report titled “Women in the Workplace, 2020” by Mckinsey 

While most other sectors of the society and the other industries are seeing more and more participation by women in the workforce and one of the biggest economies of the world, the United States of America, recently appointed its first-ever female vice-president, the finance sector is still struggling with giving women the key managerial roles in the organizations. 

According to the study conducted by the Harvard Business School, in the areas of venture capital, private equity, and hedge funds, women occupy just 9 percent, 6 percent, and 11 percent of the senior roles in the organization. 

Possible factors behind the stagnated growth of women in the workforce in the finance sector

While the gender disparity as far as employing women in the financial sector is very apparent, it is more important to identify why such a disparity exists. Traditionally, the gap has been significantly enhanced by the numerous social barriers imposed on women and the traditional roles the women have been assigned. Finance is one such sector where men have been considered to be naturally superior to their female counterparts. 

Another prominent impediment to the growth of women in this sector can be attributed to the need for maternity leaves and other child care benefits. These are seen as roadblocks as far as promotions are considered in a lot of organizations.

Lastly, one of the most significant factors stagnating the progression of women in the finance industry is the lack of women in senior positions. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Catalyst, women’s global representation on executive committees in major financial services firms was only 20%. Since the key positions are already occupied by males, it is very difficult to break this vicious cycle and promote more women to managerial and executive positions. 

… and miles to go before we sleep 

Even though the situation may look bleak today, it cannot be denied that several endeavors are being made on the global and local levels to promote women’s participation. For instance, in a study by SEWA (part of World Bank’s SIMO), it was concluded that one of the most effective solutions to improving the financial literacy of women and their overall participation, more and more work opportunities should be identified and/or created for women in the Finance sector specifically. 

Even on a global level, more and more women leaders are taking a personal interest in increasing women’s participation in the finance world. The Girls Who Invest initiative by financial expert Seema Hingorani can be a good example of this. They aim that by 2030, at least 20 percent of the world’s capital should be controlled by women. 

So, it cannot be denied that a change towards a more egalitarian finance industry is much overdue. It can be seen that trends are already changing towards it, one woman after another breaking the glass ceiling at a time. 

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