Growing up, a lot of women are discouraged from pursuing a career path in finance. Stereotypes like “girls are poor at Math” play a huge role in social conditioning at an early age. But things have shifted over the last 10 years in the male-dominated financial services industry.
According to research by Catalyst, women professionals made up 54.3% of the financial industry in the United States, even though only 26% occupied positions on executive committees.
Industry biases, lack of training, and fewer opportunities are some of the barriers to gender equality within finance. But with access to the right resources and a clear plan of action, women are shifting the narrative every day. Here are 7 steps to get closer to your career and entrepreneurship goals.
1. Understand the industry
The industry is diverse but can be segregated into many service providers such as commercial and investment banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, wealth management planning firms, and CPA firms.
These service providers support many private institutions and individual consumers and play a key role in the success of any economy. You can explore a wide range of career paths by becoming accountants and auditors, financial managers, financial analysts, and personal financial advisors, to name a few.
2. Outline your goals
Understanding your goals will help you build the trajectory to your dream job. You may want to help create more wealth for the wealthy. Alternatively, you may want to follow in the footsteps of the infamous Suze Orman, who dedicated her career to supporting the little guy in building a safe, secure life.
Entrepreneurship is also a goal of many women today. You can launch a fintech business, a personal finance advisory, or your own accountancy practice. Another emerging goal is to build financial literacy by delivering consumable educational programs. This is a growing role that many women in finance are playing.
3. Grow your skills
Finance is a profession that requires some degree of education to build credibility and trust in your preferred job role. For example, if you want to be an accountant, you will need to pursue an undergrad accounting degree. If you want to be an investment banker, an MBA in investment banking can bring you closer to your goal.
Additional certifications such as Chartered Financial Analyst, Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst, Certified Financial Planner, Financial Risk Manager (FRM), and Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA) can help you further raise your equity and grow your skills and knowledge base.
You can also explore platforms like “Girls Who Invest” that enable more women to enter the asset management industry.
4. Find a mentor
It’s a known fact that mentorship has an impact on the success journeys of women. These days, many women are open to serving as mentors to younger women or aspirants of any age. Leverage this practice to reach out, connect and seek the guidance you need.
You can have many mentors to support you in different aspects of your career journey. For instance, mentorship is a great way to access important nuggets around leadership and plan your future in the C-suite!
5. Stand up for equal pay
Unequal pay is a major barrier inhibiting gender equality in the finance industry. A report by the ADP Research Institute shows that the gender pay gap is the second largest in the finance sector. While many organizations aim to close the wage gap, there’s a chance you are being paid less than you deserve. Negotiating for equal pay starts you off on the right payscale, allowing you to grow your earnings as you rise on the career ladder.
6. Network with other women in finance
The best thing about being a woman in finance today is that you are never alone! Over the last 10 years, several professional networks have emerged. By joining these networks, you can access connections, career advice, resources, and networking opportunities. You also have a large group of women who will cheer you on during both successes and setbacks!
7. Invest in personal branding
Leveraging social media to grow your online identity and personal branding is a great investment in your career. Finance is a dynamic field with laws, rules, and dynamics that are constantly evolving. Regularly posting your opinions, sharing expertise, and speaking at various forums helps grow your visibility.
You can also network with potential recruiters, clients, and employees if you’re an entrepreneur. Hosting your own independent website with your information, testimonials, and blogs helps further cement trust and credibility.
In closing: be fearless!
Taking the first step in a new journey is always a difficult one. But the financial services industry is a lucrative one for women. It offers high commissions, opportunities for fast growth, and rewarding challenges.
In 2020, the total number of women Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) with Fortune 500 companies grew to 90. As more women receive mentorship and access to opportunities, this number will increase even further. Who knows, someday you may be one of them!