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International Women's Day: Making Space for Women in the Financial Services Industry

In 2021 a study by Deloitte found that within financial services institutions (FSIs) globally, among the most senior roles women only held 21% of board seats, 19% of C-suite roles, and 5% of CEO positions. Yet outside of FSIs more recent studies have outlined that businesses that are led by women (by that we mean businesses made up of a majority female management board or where CEO / Director positions are held by women) were more successful that their male-led counterparts in 100% of cases.

I'll say that again in case you missed it... businesses led by women made more money than those led by men in one hundred percent of instances. So, what's with the disconnect and what can we learn from this?

Firstly, these statistics illustrate that more work needs to be done to advance gender equity across the industry, but the same can also be said for inclusion as a whole for the financial services sector. Allow me to prove my point...

Close your eyes for a second (but not really because I need you to keep reading) and clear your thoughts. When you read the words 'Financial Services', what do you see?. Is that Leonardo DeCaprio shouting in an overpopulated office somewhere in New York just like the scene in Miss Congeniality when Sandra Bullock is ordering coffee like an absolute boss? Or are you joining me at the CIS white middle-aged male, glass skyscraper boardroom that you're pretty sure your brain picked directly up from a Suits episode and stored for just such an occasion? What is this picture missing? That's right, Women.

So why is the financial services industry disproportionately lacking in female influence? Well, there could be a number of factors involved here:

1. Warner Huntington III

OK, so I'm not actually apportioning any blame to the good-looking douchedbag from Legally Blonde. However, do you remember how he was expected to go to Harvard and study Law because that's what HIS father did? Well, there's a strong possibility that many of those leading the way in FS in 2023 are the son's of those who created that path for them. Whilst I'm sure those individuals are just as well suited for the role as their more marginalised counterparts, it does mean that creating space in the field for women, people of colour, and anyone who isn't statistically most likely to directly inherit a seat from their Granddaddy or Daddy, can easily drop down the list of priorities for the sector as a whole. Nepotism only serves to enhance the already privileged positions of the elite business classes, and narrows the scope of FSIs, and does a disservice to the industry as a whole by excluding fresh talent, innovative ideas, and those looking to buck the status quo.

2. Not enough Elle Woods

Enough with the Legally Blonde references, I get it. But its no surprise to hear that the financial services industry is severely lacking in female role models to light the way for a generation of ambitious young women to take those board rooms by storm. Whilst the last three years have seen record high numbers of women graduating from business schools (from 41% in 2021 to 46% in 2023) there is still work to be done. Leadership roles are usually fulfilled with individuals with decades of industry experience (read the Old White Man Brigade) and we hope to see this shift in the future, welcoming a new industry standard where women are able to better represent themselves within the sector; providing role models for newer generations of ambitious young women to follow in their footsteps and make space for female leadership within the industry.

The good news is - there is hope. We are already starting to see a shift, especially on social media. Female finance experts, or 'fin-fleucers' are taking the platforms by storm, providing motivation, books, workshops, coaching etc. Their example of sharing knowledge and lending support to provide access to those who otherwise wouldn't have had the ability to embark upon a career path in this industry is an example I am determined to follow. I want everyone to have the opportunity to better themselves, their 9-5 existence, and their bank balance; and that starts by giving accessible education to those looking for it. So, fellow fin-fluencers I salute you, keep fighting the good fight, the tide is turning!

Share this with the women in your lives, your sisters, your mothers, your gal pals, and any boss lady in your life to spread some love and support! It IS International Women's Day after all.

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