How can more women be encouraged into senior finance positions?

October 1, 2019

While women hold just over half of all finance positions globally, the majority of these are at a junior level. Sadly, when it comes to career progression, women are drastically under-represented in senior positions – occupying just one in four. Durham University Business School alumna Emilie Allaert, head of operations and projects at a leading Fintech centre, shares her thoughts

Numerous countries are imposing quotas on organisations to encourage the employment of female professionals at senior levels in an attempt to narrow the gender gap. However, these quotas only offer a short-term solution and could have adverse effects. For example, it is likely that some women are only propelled into senior positions to meet targets, rather than in recognition of their work. So what effective, long-term methods can be taken to help encourage greater diversity at the top levels of our financial institutions?

Encourage women to be vocal about their successes

Women typically are modest about personal achievements – they are simply ‘doing their job’. Their male counterparts, however, generally are the opposite. Women must be encouraged to follow suit and by ensuring they are taking credit for the work they have done, this will help raise awareness amongst superiors of their competency, reiterating their value to the company, and also encouraging other women to do the same.

Teach finance and technology at a younger age

With a UK workforce of over two million in the finance industry, there is little education (pre-university) on the opportunities on offer, and the skills required to pursue a successful career within this sector. And, with many jobs in the future likely to be in finance and new emerging sectors such as Fintech, it is important to provide better, easily accessible education in both finance and technology at a younger age, to give women the confidence that they have the knowledge and ability to pursue such roles.

Encourage risk taking

When it comes to risk-taking, both in work-based situations such as investing, and in personal development such as applying for promotions, women typically are more risk-averse than males. Though these risks may not always pay off, those who take them are often seen as bold and assertive in the eyes of their superiors – key traits for leadership positions. Employers must do more to encourage an environment where failure is not equated to ineptitude and is instead seen as an opportunity to learn.

Promote more women role models

When senior finance positions are male-dominated, it can be difficult for women to see these roles as achievable or desirable. It is important to promote female role models, by facilitating opportunities for female staff to access and meet female leaders, or by promoting female-focused networks both inside and outside of an organisation. For example, Durham University Business School’s alumni network connects women working in finance together, helping women to see senior roles as achievable.

Encourage confidence

Studies suggest that male-dominated workplaces can make women less confident in their abilities and capacity to learn new skills in comparison to male colleagues. When senior positions become available, this lack of confidence can stop women from applying. Employers must engage with female staff to help boost their self-belief and ensure that more women are confident in their own qualifications and assured enough to apply for and learn within these senior roles. There are clear obstacles for women in the finance industry, and now is the time for women to be bold and strong, to create change for the next generation.

Durham University Business School
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