Gender equality in the workplace is an ongoing debate. In among issues surrounding pay, discrimination and opportunities, women are often underrepresented within the world of work. Even though research shows that companies with more women on their boards outperform those that don’t by 41%, some sectors aren’t getting the message.
One industry that has analysed the data (unsurprisingly) and empowered women is finance. A look at some of the largest financial institutions shows that equality is becoming the norm. As Margo Cook of Nuveen Advisory Services described it, gender diversity is “on fire” within the financial world. Although the dynamics are far from perfect, banks, trading houses and accountancy firms aren’t afraid to employ women.
Technology makes finance accessible
Although the reasons for greater gender equality in the financial sector are varied, online technology seems to have been a catalyst for change. In her video breakdown of a day in the life of a trader, currency analyst Renee Mu explains how online investing has created new opportunities. As well as her own experiences, Mu said online trading has made the industry more accessible for everyone, especially women.
“Housewives, who are often occupied by taking care of kids and housework, can now place a trade easily on their laptops in the middle of doing laundry or baking cookies,” Mu explained.
In tandem with access and convenience, Mu also believes psychology may be bringing more women into the industry. Although she admits research is needed to confirm her assumptions, she does feel that intuition (which many people feel women use more often) is crucial in trading.
“Personally, I prefer to combine both intuition and logic. Intuition could help me quickly capture important information, especially about changes. When I feel something is wrong, I don’t ignore my feeling,” Mu continued.
Perception and opportunities lead to equality
Even if it’s a stretch to say that women are built for certain areas of the finance industry, the perception is there. Often in life, perception is all that matters. When someone shatters a preconceived notion, it paves the way for others to follow. Therefore, if people perceive women to have innate strengths when it comes to making financial decisions, it’s better for everyone.
However, there is loose data to support the idea that women are naturally comfortable with money. As data from McKinsey shows, more than 50% of women now control their household finances. Obviously the logistics of covering bills is vastly different from handling corporate finances. However, if it can be used as another catalyst to drive gender equality, it should be.
Having role models and more open doors is critical in the battle for equality but often the most profound changes take place on a personal level. If women can take inspiration from the skills they use at home, they’re more likely to push for a career in the financial sector.
Representation is a tricky topic without a simple solution. Even if they create more opportunities, companies can’t force women to join. Indeed, if women have the perception something isn’t for them, they’re unlikely to try it. However, the financial sector has shown that perception and opportunities can change the dynamics. Put simply, if women feel there is a place for them, they’ll seize the opportunity with both hands.