WOMEN IN FINANCE
by Janhvi Babaria - Sisterhood Chair
24% of those who have a leadership role within financial services firms are women. Only 86 women are promoted to managerial positions in the finance world for every 100 men. And while 29% percent of men say they feel that requesting opportunities for work flexibility is not a big deal, only 19% of women feel the same.
Honestly, I began with those statistics to serve as some sort of a hook (or at least I think that’s what my AP Lit teacher used to call it). But my main goal was to introduce what my post is going to be about; women in finance. More specifically, the inequalities women face in finance and how their experiences are worlds apart from those of men. I mean only 24% of women have leadership roles in financial services firms? A bit unnerving as a woman in finance myself. I’d like to hope that by the time I’ve worked for a few years and have the opportunity for a leadership position, I’d be able to get one. But the facts prove that it’s not that easy.
Let’s try to break this down. Why are women so underrepresented in finance, especially in senior positions? Well it all starts from the bottom. If women are already less likely to be promoted from entry level to manager, then it’s rather difficult to equalize the gender gap at more senior levels. Hence, the gap just continues to grow. Now, this happens for a couple reasons. One being the lack of role models. Women don’t see a lot of women navigating their way up the ladder. It’s not the most common thing nor is it something that you see on the news all the time. I assume it would be hard to try to force your way up when you don’t really even know how to do that. There’s not really a solid blueprint with high chances of success (as we can see from the statistics).
Now I won’t blame this underrepresentation fully on the lack of a blueprint or role models. It is true that there tend to be less women who pursue finance in college than men, thus a gap being understandable. However, the extent of that gap cannot be explained by this. Currently I’m a finance major here at Texas A&M, as well as an Indian American woman. I’ve taken multiple finance courses so far as well as have experience at an oil & gas company as a finance intern. There are a few things that I can tell you from my experiences that might help you understand the situation better. I took an investment finance course last semester that I was very excited about and looked forward to. I remember walking into class the first day to see 25 men looking back at me and 1 woman. I am one of those people who can blend in anywhere and make things work. But the feeling I got when I walked into that classroom that day is a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s hard to describe. I think a little bit of it was disappointment but at the same time a hint of worry? Definitely a lot of nervousness. But regardless, I put my head down and I got to work. Our first exam comes and goes and we all get our results back. I remember two guys sitting in front of me, discussing their grades. They turned around and asked me what I had gotten. Now that is one of the reasons I believe women have such a hard time in finance. No, we don’t have a hard time because somebody (a man) asks to know about our grades or about our work. But I sure do get riled up when somebody looks at me with a smirk on their face, looking at me like they think they’re above me and smarter than me solely because I am 1 of 2 females out of 25 men in the room. It’s like that a lot of the time in the real world as well. People will look at you like you just cannot be as smart as the man sitting next to you or be able to perform the same duties with the same level of efficiency.
If this wasn’t true, then why are only 24% of those with leadership roles in finance women? It’s discouraging and it’s hard to keep going in a field that feels like it is dominated by people that aren’t like you (By “aren’t like you” I mean male). The only way you keep going in moments like that is show the people waiting to put you down, that you are on the same level as them if not higher (yes this is me hinting that I did in fact score higher than both of those boys sitting in front of me and yes it did become a common occurring event).
Another thing that I’d like to talk about is the demands on women in finance and the lack of recognition. Women take care of the home and the family. Women give birth and have to nurse babies. Essentially what I’m saying is that women are superheroes yet they aren’t exactly treated that way in the finance world. Forbes states that,
“Working women are twice as likely as their male counterparts to run the household, three times more likely to manage their children’s schedules, and eight times more likely to require time off to care for a sick child. They’re also three times as likely to volunteer for school or community activities.”
How in the world does it make sense for women to work the same amount as men, yet have more responsibilities and still not be treated the same or be offered the same opportunities. Asides from maternity leave, women most often aren’t given extra help or recognition for what they do. They’re just expected to do what they do as it is just part of life? Well yeah, now I understand why more women leave their jobs than men, how much more disheartening can it really get? Oh wait, I didn't even talk to you about the fact that “in the U.S., the average woman working full-time makes just 80.5% of what her male counterpart makes” and I’m not going to because that is something that sadly we all are pretty familiar with regardless of career field (also because it makes me angry and I’d like to remain zen before starting off this Monday.)
I’d like to think that maybe things will get better for women as time goes on and we reach different ages. As women continue to break barriers, the world progresses, and maybe the men with authority stand up for what’s right, maybe the overall gap lessens. But regardless of if the world moves with me or not, I’m going to keep going. Growing up I used to play sports with the boys in my elementary school. I’d be the only girl out there with them and I had not one problem with it because I knew that anything any one of those boys could do, I could and would do it better. Looking back it was a good mindset to have because not only did it end up becoming the truth, but it also gave me the motivation to keep it that way. Today, I like to think that that little girl who ran around with all that confidence and will, with no care of what anybody thought she could and couldn’t do, is still in there. I know things aren’t going to be easy when it comes to pursuing finance. I mean the stats scream that loud and clear. But here’s a quote that might explain my mindset a bit better;
“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.”
You can bet your bottom dollar that that is exactly what I am going to do and I don’t plan on stopping till I get there– But it sure would be nice if it’d be a tad bit more equal and fair by the time I decide to do so.
Hard-working, ambitious, superheroes. Women deserve better.