master private finance

'The industry has to make an authentic effort to rid itself of unconscious bias'

What’s it like to be a woman in the industry? I think that can depend on what type of woman you are.

For me personally, it’s often been extremely tough, sometimes very frustrating, and definitely challenging, but anyone who knows me knows that I love a challenge.

I fell into financial services by chance. I had never viewed it as a chosen career path. My childhood and upbringing has had a huge impact on where I am today. I was constantly supported and encouraged by my family to do well in anything I did. I was a valued member and captain of numerous successful sports teams from an early age, and this developed my people skills, confidence, and character. Add to this, tenacity, self-belief, personal development and sheer hard work, this has proved to be a great recipe for me.

I cut my teeth in corporate finance and chased lots of opportunities to progress; this was sometimes an uphill struggle due to my gender, but I had a resolute desire to change the status quo, and this has resulted in me being in a great position, despite years of being excluded, doors being closed in my face, and blatant discrimination.

I’m now very privileged to be part of a fantastic forward-thinking company that is spearheading and supporting change around company culture and inclusion.

I’ve been in financial services for almost 25 years and I‘ve learned so much — and still have lots of learning to do — as does the industry, especially when it comes to female leaders and the rhetoric women have been exposed to over the years.

The industry has been inherently dominated by white males: a few of whom have been my biggest supporters while, sadly, the majority of them have been my biggest aggressors. Nevertheless, this hasn’t been a negative for me — quite the contrary. It just made me work harder, develop more, focus on achieving my goals, and gave me a steely determination to succeed.

Success for me meant being heard — not being discriminated against because of my gender — being supported, developed and exposed to the same opportunities as everyone else.

In my experience, it often transpired that there were very different rules for men and women. Men were viewed as far superior to women; they were the bread winners, decision makers, ambitious, driven and committed. Women were often seen as emotional, touchy, unreliable (mainly due to care-giving responsibilities) and just wanted to earn some pin money.

Thankfully, these outdated views are slowly being assigned to the past and there’s a positive shift in the air around the qualities women can bring to a business.

My advice for other women would be to know your worth. You are just as valuable as any other human being of having a seat at the top table, so to speak.

Try surrounding yourself with positive role models and mentors, build a great balanced, support network. Believe in yourself and voice your career goals and how you’d like to progress. Ask for feedback in relation to areas where you need to develop and view this feedback as a positive pathway to reaching your career goals.

Always remain respectful. Demonstrate the right qualities, skills and abilities which will make you the best person for a potential promotion and bear in mind that you don’t need to be the finished article and possess every single skill on a job spec to apply for a new role. Take that leap of faith and apply.

I’m so fortunate to have had some great mentors along the way who’ve supported me through some of my biggest career challenges. I’m now in a position to pay this forward and use my voice, position and experience, to benefit others.

I’m seeing lots of women appearing on boards, predominantly as NEDs, which is brilliant. However, we need to see more woman as executive directors; female inclusion and representation need to be visible at all levels of an organisation.

The industry has to make an authentic effort to rid itself of unconscious bias. We are seeing some fantastic initiatives around this, and we are making inroads.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and it will take time to change opinions. Hopefully, we can look back on this in years to come and be proud of the positive transformations we made.

Are you a woman in the financial services industry keen to get your voice heard? Contact [email protected] - we would love to chat!

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