Women in Finance: Is there any future?
//Par Bouzeboudja Ghania//
It is not a secret to anybody that historically women have been underrepresented in the world of finance and particularly in the upper echelons of financial services positions: that’s what we call the “glass ceiling”.
Indeed, as career level rises, female representation collapses, and globally women held 12.2% of CEO roles in 2018 while representing 46% of financial services employees. And as if these figures weren’t scary enough, among these 12.2% CEO’s, 62% have noninvestment leadership positions which basically means that they do not have the ability to actually take major financial decisions nor to impact the market. They mostly behave as managers and not really the way their position as leaders should allow them to.
This sad, yet true story, is even more accurate in fields such as Hedge funds where women represent only 3% of senior managers roles, according to studies conducted by the Harvard Business Scholl, and in private equity where they represent only 6% of senior managers.
But, why are things this way when women have proven better students than men and succeeded to catch up on many other fields including sciences and medicine that have also been traditional “men jobs”. How can we explain that the gender gap in finance is almost as wide as the one in the army?
First thing first, let’s talk about stereotypes:
Isn’t it known that women, for being women, are less comfortable with numbers and pressure? And what in the world combine the two more than finance?
It has been proven many times that recruiters are more reluctant to contract women in finance regardless of their curriculum and because of old-fashioned stereotypes and prejudices.
And just as Alice LHABOUZ, the youngest woman to ever create a fund management company in Europe, said during Skema Finance and He For She conference “ Les femmes dans la finance: des billets verts au plafond de verre”, finance appears to be an ‘old boys club”. Indeed for decades, men have been working together and building up clubs where most negotiation is done. The problem? Women are forbidden from even entering those informal yet selective clubs and so they have been kept outside the negotiation sphere where most contracts get discussed. How could you possibly sign anything when you are not welcome there? That’s part of the things women have to deal with when working in finance.
So our first advice to all young and ambitious women looking to work in finance: if you want to rise up, know the many walls you’ll have to deal with and get prepared to face them.
More than stereotypes, what about reality?
Alice LHABOUZ, during the conference also shared with us her concern regarding the few women involved in finance. And indeed even before thinking of rising, figures show that many young female students choose not to follow the path of finance because of their concern regarding their future personal life on top of their possible opportunities to reach high-level positions. That because of how personally demanding careers in finance maybe but also because of the sexism in this field. However, most women in finance believe it is possible and according to many studies, women have proven better than men when it comes to risk management.
So, our second piece of advice: don’t be afraid of managing both professional and personal life, many have done it brilliantly. Why couldn’t you?
Also, women in finance, just like Miss LHABOUZ, deplore the lack of solidarity between them due to how competitive their world is. Indeed on top of being in competition with men, and due to how hard it is for women to rise up, women also have to face a sharp rivalry among them.
So finance: definitely sexist or does hope still exist?
Over the past decades, a lot of progress has been done regarding sexism in finance, and if there is still work to do, the trend seems relatively encouraging.
First, because more and more people seem to have understood that cutting off women from some positions, means cutting off 50% of talent and possibilities so companies. Also, the general trend of feminism around the world makes it more and more difficult to justify sexism in the highest spheres. And women in particular began to join their strength to make things change through for example groups such as the American group “Girls Who Invest” which has been created by women to encourage and teach young women studying finance. Indeed, to face a united “boys club” women must join up to build their own club.
So in a nutshell, there’s definitely hope for women in finance, however, the path is still full of obstacles and women must act united together to overcome them.