Career · June 23, 2022

Women in Finance Are Advancing Faster Than Ever

Change is a constant in the field of finance. The industry has had to adapt to increased regulations, recent economic crises and our country's changing demographics. One of the main shifts is that the sector is becoming more inclusive, particularly for women.

The days when finance was a male-led field, in fact or in perception, are long gone. Women are now CEOs at major investment firms and presidents of bank divisions. Female leaders are getting a seat at the table so much more frequently that popular publications like Forbes, Barron's and American Banker curate annual lists of the most powerful women in finance.


Factors driving the change

This shift reflects broader changes that have taken place across our culture over decades. As the distinctions in societal roles for men and women have shrunk, more women have stepped into leadership roles in all industries. But there are also some compelling reasons female leadership in finance is particularly important.

Women are outliving men, on average, so their need to carefully manage their money stretches farther. Also, increased access to education is giving more women the chance to become subject matter experts in all fields—including finance.

Research has also consistently shown the importance of diversity for corporate success. By having diverse opinions, companies can challenge group-think, which tends to limit their ability to solve problems.

Challenges still persist

The shift toward inclusivity for women is an ongoing process. Executive positions in finance remain overwhelmingly male. One way to further even the playing field is through mentorship and sponsorship, where managers advocate for their female colleagues.

This culture starts at the top, with executive leaders supporting junior women in attaining executive seats and acknowledging their accomplishments. Not only would this help existing female employees, but it would also encourage more women to pursue careers in finance.

Another challenge is the preconception that the qualities traditionally associated with men—particularly assertiveness and emotionless decision-making—are necessary for success in finance. In the past, many parts of the industry thrived on a more aggressive and fast-paced approach based on quick sales and commissions. But today, that model has given way to one that's more fee-based, consultative and focused on long-term financial planning.

The qualities needed for success under this model include listening, collaboration and high levels of emotional intelligence. These characteristics aren't traditionally masculine or feminine—they're universal qualities aimed at developing successful long-term relationships. Companies can push for more inclusivity, equity and diversity by continuing to invest in this model and stressing the importance of these attributes when it comes to employee success.

Meeting the realities of today's world

The shift toward dual-income households is a well-established reality of American family life. But many companies' policies have lagged behind. Often, they've failed to offer the flexibility families need to make life easier in this model. And because of lingering cultural norms around gender roles, it's often women who bear the brunt of the inconvenience.

Financial companies can implement policies that make it easier for both men and women to thrive in their roles while still tending to the responsibilities of family life. Flexible hours and remote work are two policies that can go a long way toward this goal.

Working from home became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies that continue to let employees work from any location can help many families overcome some of the logistical issues that make career advancement difficult for both partners in the context of raising a family.

While women have made strides in the financial workplace, challenges such as lack of sponsorship, workplace culture and the need for flexibility are still barriers to advancement. The sooner we can have open dialogue on how to solve these lingering problems, the sooner more women will be able to enter the financial sector—and advance in it.

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