Advancing the Role of Women in the Financial Services Sector

Successful female leaders in the financial industry

Gender-related data shows that the number of women working in the financial services sector continues to grow, yet fewer women have secured roles at the C-suite level. This discrepancy seems to indicate that more awareness and discourse about the advancement of women in the financial services industry needs to happen. 

To that end, McKinsey & Company surveyed more than 14,000 employees at 39 financial services companies, including interviews with 12 female senior executives at financial services firms in North America as part of their ‘Women in the Workplace’ initiative. This collaborative initiative between McKinsey and aims to examine the gender parity gap in financial services and find a way to close it.

The survey found that much work remains to achieve gender equality in financial services. Fortunately, more than 90 percent of the companies surveyed have declared a commitment to gender diversity. Other data from the survey indicates that financial service companies that commit to gender diversity in the workplace also perform better and are more profitable. Research by McKinsey also suggests that “companies in the top quartiles for gender diversity on executive teams” outperformed other companies on profitability over 21 percent of the time. These same companies were 33 percent more likely to lead the industry in profitability.

When financial services companies have more women represented within their executive leadership, it results in a more rounded view of customers. Why is this important? Because more than half of all households consist of women who are not only the financial providers for their households but also control spending and saving for their families.

Unfortunately, wealth management has historically been a male-dominated industry. But through education, mentorships, and executive and leadership support, more women can be brought into better career opportunities within the financial services sector.

Moving Forward With Gender Diversity

There are ways in which financial services companies can advance women within their executive teams. It starts with providing adequate resources towards inspiring the next generation of women into the finance field. The Deloitte Center for Financial Services (DCFS) proposed in Within reach? Achieving gender equity in financial services leadership that “the finance community should think about cultivating female talent much earlier, among pre-career young women who are just starting to form career ambitions and those entering the workforce.”

The proposal also suggests that based on research, studies, and data, there has never been a better time for financial services companies to focus on organizational diversity. Companies should evolve the workplace to be worthy of young women starting their careers.

Steps To Consider in Advancing Women Leadership in the Workplace

As conversations about advancing women in the workplace continue, there are steps that companies can consider to prevent the underrepresentation of women on their executive teams:

  1. Make gender diversity a priority. Start an open dialogue with employees about the disparity between men and women in the workplace and possible solutions to create an equal working environment.
  2. Diversify the leadership team. Ensure that women are given the opportunities to advance into leadership roles.
  3. Establish a mentorship program. Launch a mentorship program where women in leadership roles can guide women just starting their careers in finance.
  4. Close the wage gap. Reduce the wage gap between men and women within the company.
  5. Support a transparent culture based on trust. Leadership should be open about issues the company might face in terms of advancing women to leadership roles. Be honest and communicate with your employees about how the company is working to decrease the gender gap.

Financial services companies that want to transform their culture into a more inclusive and accepting space for women must become more forward-thinking. The data shows that those who embrace women in leadership roles and the advancement of women will also become more profitable overall.

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