Women in Finance | Quality better than Quantity

Quality is always better than quantity

Quantity always makes the headlines but we won’t make significant change in the gender balance in financial institutions until we focus on quality as well.  By quality, I mean that women have to be hired into the right roles.  For a few years now financial institutions have been talking about the increasing percentage of women in the incoming analyst class. Every year, the number inches up very slowly.  But this is not the full story as we saw with the Gender Pay Gap.  The bigger question is what jobs will those women be doing?  

Sadly, the focus on the overall analyst number misses the elephant in the room.  Even with increasing numbers of women in the analyst class, we are not necessarily seeing an increase in the number of females in roles like trading or M&A.  These are generally the roles which propel individuals on to the fast track and up to the top. 

Well, you might say, if we know what the problem is then we should just hire more female analysts into those roles.  But it’s never that easy is it?

There are 3 key reasons why the industry is struggling to do this. And, there is no quick fix here. 

1.  Appalling (still) public image of finance.  This is leading to a lot of women and men self-selecting out of finance. 

2.  (Dated) social norms which say “girls aren’t good with numbers”.  This is one of the key unconscious biases against women on the trading floor. 

3.  Poor recruiting and interview skills in the finance industry (despite a real interest to fix this).  This is a huge topic, but for example, some research suggests that women prefer collaboration to competition but interviews continue to focus on competitive rather than collaborative skills.  Which is interesting, because new banking culture should be about collaborative rather than competitive skills. 

So yes, we’re making progress, but not enough. 

Terri Duhon