Gender inequality in the United States has taken a significant downward turn in the latter half of the 21st century, with women drastically increasing their presence in the workforce and achieving more educational outcomes than ever before.
Despite this gender revolution, we still have a way to go, especially in the boardroom. This gap is particularly pronounced in traditionally male-dominated STEM fields, like finance.
As a society, it’s time to shine a light on unbalanced gender representation in the workforce and curb it.
Here are three ways we can support women in finance in the future:
#1 Recognize exceptional women in finance
Senior Financial Advisor Daniella Rand is just one example of the many successful women succeeding in the finance industry. She broke through the proverbial glass ceiling years ago and now heads the San Francisco-based wealth management business, The Rand Group.
A 2017 study into gender diversity in the banking industry highlights the significance of her achievement, noting that although women made up 52% of banker workers across 20 countries, they only accounted for 38% of middle managers and 16% of executive roles.
Trusted financial journals, such as American Banker and Forbes, routinely acknowledge powerful women in finance on their platform. By showcasing them and their achievements, we can inspire young women to enter the field. Do your part by commenting, liking and sharing these articles to show stakeholders that representation matters.
#2 Debunk stereotypes in schools
To address the gender imbalance in finance, it’s important to go back to the start. Studies have shown that while girls perform at a similar level to boys mathematically in schools, they are significantly less likely to enter STEM fields.
Both researchers and prominent women in finance have credited negative stereotypes for this imbalance. Even the myth that women will underperform in the field can discourage young girls from pursuing math subjects in school.
One way to address this harmful misconception is to give young women images of female mathematicians to look up to (discussed above). On a larger scale, governing bodies should mandate units in the curriculum that focus on women’s achievements in these fields — for example, a project on Ada Lovelace.
#3 Normalize employment pathways for parents in the workforce
When interviewed, women have identified the perceived stigma around maternity leave as a deterrent to a career in finance. Ensuring that women feel supported in their family planning goals will help the industry achieve gender parity.
Speaking with Medium, First Interstate Bank COO Jodi Delahunt Hubbell recognized that finance businesses need to “adopt a maternity and paternity leave policy for employees and build a culture that encourages and supports using the policy.” She highlighted that companies should also have return-to-work pathways and programs in place to facilitate the return to work, whether employees are gone for six months or six years.
COVID-19 has shown us that, using online software platforms, working from home can be an effective way to deliver financial services. Flexible hours and a viable work-from-home model is now more possible than ever and may be an incentive for women with young families to enter and stay in the industry.
By taking these three steps, we can begin to combat some of the most significant challenges women face in finance today.