It might seem ironic that a male is writing a column about women in finance.
But for DuTrac Community Credit Union, as a former presenting sponsor of the inaugural and second annual Iowa Women Lead Change conferences, and me, their organizer and inaugural chair, it is a pleasure to highlight career insights for women in finance.
According to a Jan. 5, 2018, Forbes article that referenced the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, “Female talent remains one of the most underutilized business resources.” In some industries, like finance, this is especially clear.
In finance, as career level rises, female representation declines. Although 46 percent of financial services employees are women, at the executive level, it’s only 15 percent.
The good news is women are breaking barriers and achieving executive positions. Following are insights gleaned from women who have chosen a career in finance:
Each gender has its set of talents providing both challenges and opportunities in the workplace: Finance careers are dominated by middle-aged, and older, men often referred to as the “Good Ol’ Boys Club.” Instead of focusing on trying to fit into the club, women should apply their brand of energies and talents into their work. This is when the magic happens — and would seem a solid suggestion for anyone hoping to advance in the workplace.
Careers in finance are not about money. Finance careers are about achieving skills needed to serve and meet the needs of others: Finance communications can come across like a foreign language, causing consumers to feel stranded while being forced to navigate the many rules, regulations, opportunities and pitfalls of the finance industry. Even those savvy in the ways of finance need help, an adviser to help recommend a path to personal goal achievement.
Possessing an instinctual gift to nurture, many women possess those communication skills to more easily connect with people and allows them to translate the labyrinth of finance terms into an easy-to-understand language that might assist consumers in their decision making. Touching people’s lives, helping others in need and partnering to achieve desired outcomes are strong career motivators for anyone, but especially for women.
A career in finance provides an abundant supply of learning opportunities: Finance offers many varying career choices from investment banker to an economic adviser or being treasurer with a local charity. Regardless of the job title, there is an endless supply of learning opportunities within a finance career. Ever-changing markets, technology and regulatory guidelines would make finance a career based on continual learning. Therefore, be open to beginning a finance career in one field only to see many others along the way to retirement.
Women are placing an increased emphasis on careers: Only look at the past presidential election candidates and the number of women who sought executive office or to serve in a national policymaker capacity and recognize women with talent, skills and the deportment to reach the highest executive level. With a budget in the trillions, even being president is a finance career. Further, women found their voice and will no longer tolerate the “business as usual” whereby some “bad apples” employed tactics to minimize, trivialize and overly sexualize women.
Women have a bright future ahead: From navigating the markets, demonstrating leadership savvy with clients and boards or being a steadying influence during times of transition, women are making their mark in finance. Following are a few of today’s women in finance: Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, French presidential candidate Marine LePen, J.P. Morgan Asset and Wealth Management CEO Mary Callahan Erdoes and Generation Wealthy President/CEO Samantha Ealy.
The inspirational list also includes “mom.” Which doesn’t say women either need to choose career or home as some women might choose to have both.
In summary, consider the gender gap when choosing a finance career. Understand the gap is narrowing as women (and men) apply their unique personal approaches to work and home. Each gender possesses unique skills and talents with success coming to the person applying their unique skills and talents to any task at hand.
Women are leveraging their talents to squeeze out the gender gap to make careers in finance. Momentum is with those women balancing career and personal choices defining fulfillment on their terms. With many role models, today’s woman in finance can choose to be a head of state or a head of household and both.