Last month, we had the pleasure of hosting the Women in Investing Network (WIN) of Philadelphia’s 10-Year Anniversary Gathering. The central theme of the event was exploring, discussing and strategizing ways to positively influence the drop-off and dropout rates of women in financial services and to offer real solutions toward encouraging long-term careers in our industry.
Nearly 100 attendees heard from four senior women who operate in different areas of the industry as they shared their stories, each of which involved a different definition of success, followed a unique narrative, and emphasized individual strategies that helped these women progress in their careers. The panelists offered a firsthand view of their satisfying yet complex lives at the top of their organizations, as well as the challenges they faced along the way. From a lack of career development opportunities, like networking and mentorship programs, to run-ins with unconscious bias, participants expressed the challenges that they have overcome and that, in some cases, they continue to observe today. They also talked about the people who influenced and encouraged them, the opportunities and risks that they had the courage and confidence to take on, and the value of acknowledging and even embracing their failures in order to grow and push forward.
According to PWC, women represent 60% of the financial services industry employee base. What is the percentage of those women in senior leadership positions? Only 19%.1 The numbers for subsectors of the financial services industry are even worse, according to World Economic Forum.2 Panelists spoke about succeeding in a heavily male-dominated asset class, feeling outnumbered and at times discouraged. To counter that, they described why it is worth it to stick it out, not just for the individual, but for our industry, our clients and our larger society.
The panelists agreed that today more than ever, gender diversity matters. We’ve seen that it positively impacts culture, conduct and risk; it enhances customer relationships; and it expands the potential talent pool. However, the panelists debated that the brave and progressive group of women who successfully brought the 60% female representation into the broader financial services workforce has been challenged to influence retention and long-term careers so far.
Gender diversity at senior level positions is unlikely to grow much more if we continue employing old strategies. A new generation of responses is required. Uncovering unconscious and implicit bias, engaging everyone in the discussion, including men, addressing basic assumptions about the workplace, and giving young women the opportunity to see firsthand what success looks like at the senior level, are all strategies that could make a difference and could lead to more female leaders and decision makers in our industry.
For more information about WIN, please visit: http://winofphiladelphia.org/about/
1 PWC: Mending the Gender Gap, May 2013
2 World Economic Forum: Ensuring a Level Playing Field Women in Private Equity, January 2015