Though female representation in the financial services and technology sectors has seen positive changes, these industries are still heavily male-dominated today. There are only 16 women amongst the founders of 1,000 of the best-funded financial technology companies, for example, and we only saw a nominal, 5% increase in the number of female C-suite executives in corporate business environments between 2016 and 2021.
Clearly, when it comes to female representation in the corporate world, we still have a long way to go.
As a finance leader at a technology company, I realise there are steps I can take to help more women see themselves in roles just like mine. The following are my thoughts on how female leaders can work to attract more women to join and succeed in the financial services and technology sectors.
Start with education to make an early impact.
It’s clear that there are benefits to having more women in the c-suite. But to get there, we need to start encouraging representation earlier on, especially within the schooling systems.
Female leaders who have found success in the workforce can help young women in education model themselves after that success. Women in finance and technology roles can visit schools to talk about their professional lives and share the motivators behind their careers, which can help the younger generation conceptualise leadership experiences better. Because if young women don’t see women in the c-suite, they won’t believe this type of opportunity exists for them, which can negatively impact their pursuit of c-suite roles in the future.
This lack of visibility can affect a student’s schooling curriculum as well. In schools, fewer young women are choosing Maths or Physics as an option, simply because they do not see themselves represented in careers where these subjects are required. EngineeringUK revealed that around 115,000 more young women would need to take A-levels in Maths, Physics, or both to achieve equality in the numbers of male and female students studying engineering and technology degrees. Suppose we promote and highlight more women in leadership positions in these domains. In that case, this will create a positive, self-perpetuating cycle that will inspire more women to pursue careers in them, leading to better representation across all levels.
Support other women in the workplace.
As well as rethinking representation in education, we also must support women in the workplace, particularly to instill confidence in their abilities and skills and foster their growth in an environment that is often working against them.
Beyond struggling with imposter syndrome, and an enduring feeling of inferiority compared to male colleagues who get promoted faster and more often, women in the workforce were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years. Childcare played a major role in this lopsided impact and continues to be a roadblock for women looking to make headways with their careers. In fact, new ONS statistics have shown that 32,000 women left the workforce last year to look after their kids.
Focusing on policies that will help women succeed in their careers – from pay equity to hiring and promotions – should be a priority for organisations today. Companies can do a better job of recognising women for their successes, ensuring they have ample opportunities to advance their careers, and providing them with the flexibility to balance work and personal.
Prioritise mentorship programs.
Beyond advocating for these policies, female leaders can also provide mentorship, sponsorship, and allyship to female colleagues, which can pave the way for high performers to advance to positions of leadership.
A support network is crucial for career development, and companies where women succeed tend to have strong mentorship programs in place. Research has shown that mentorship programs increase employee retention while also boosting promotion rates for women and other underrepresented groups. Mentorship programs are also proven to drive deeper connections and collaboration, which is especially important in our increasingly remote and hybrid workforce.
Mentorship programs are a true win-win for corporations today; they keep employees happier and motivated, they encourage growth, and they support key business initiatives like productivity and retention. For female leaders in the financial services and technology sectors, participating in mentorship is a simple way to help push representation forward. Take time to connect with women at your company and identify ways that you can help those women grow their proficiency or expertise. Be an advocate for their career progression, provide them with constructive feedback, and help them gain the exposure and visibility that is critical to career growth.
In a rapidly changing world of work, with skill shortages forecasted to continue for the coming decades, businesses that overlook the potential of women do so at their own peril. Female representation can help organisations think differently, challenge the status quo, and embrace transformation – which will be critical to success in an increasingly competitive market. For female leaders in the finance and technology sectors, there is a real opportunity to help make an impact when it comes to representation. By actively engaging with women of all ages, from early education to women in the workforce, female leaders can help break down barriers, build crucial support systems, and enable more women to reach for leadership positions.