Despite a push on inclusive recruitment over the last decade, women are still struggling to progress into senior leadership positions in the financial service sector. Either never reaching the pinnacle of the corporate ladder or doing so at a far slower pace than their male counterparts. Upskilling is imperative to addressing gender disparity in the workplace, allowing women to advance their careers and stay relevant despite the added pressures they face in terms of work-life balance.
In the second section of this Women’s Mentorship Series in partnership with HerCapital, Rutherford delves into the benefits of upskilling both personally and professionally. The financial services industry is a rapidly changing environment; therefore, it is crucial women are not only given the basic skills for success but offered resources that enable them to continually adapt and expand their skill base. In turn, empowering women to collectively move up the corporate ladder. All advice and tips mentioned below stem from a virtual roundtable held on the 17th March 2021 with Joy Rhoades, a successful author and ex-Managing Director at renowned financial services firm JPMorgan.
Tedious jobs and entry level positions in the financial service industry are expected to become mechanised in the not-so-distant future, as technology continues to evolve shaking up conventional working practices in its wake. Worryingly, it is estimated that technological advancement will disproportionately affect women, who occupy a large majority of low-level, administrative positions in the financial sector; compared to men who dominate mid-level and senior roles.
According to the IMF projects, 11% of jobs currently held by women are at risk of elimination because of digital technologies – a far higher percentage than for jobs held by men. Technology can even keep women from getting the job in the first place; there’s evidence that AI algorithms in talent management, for example, have generated results biased against female recruits because of a cumulative bias contained in the data.
These statistics demonstrate that a concerted effort on the part of financial organisations is needed to not only broach the ever-expanding skill gap in terms of digital abilities but boost gender equality by upskilling and reskilling the female workforce. However, with little being done in the corporate world to equalise the playing field in terms of gender, now more than ever women face having to make time to remain relevant in the industry. Not an easy task when you consider the added pressures they shoulder in terms of work-life balance. Below are some ways you can increase and expand your skill base, whether through formal training or experience, that will help you stay relevant in your field.
Ask for Tasks That Will Challenge You
Look out for ‘stretch opportunities’ to challenge yourself within the workplace. If you are currently in a position and want to expand your knowledge of a different department or area of expertise, be vocal about what you want in your working environment. Ask your boss for tasks that will test your abilities and, in the process, learn new skills. It is important to be open with your employer concerning skill gaps, so they can support you broach areas you are not yet comfortable in. Doing so will help you build a broad foundation of experiences and knowhow, that will allow you to progress into leadership positions or support your case for a raise. Further, challenging yourself in the workplace will positively affect your confidence.
Outside Education & Online Courses
Due to the global pandemic and resulting unemployment rate, e-learning sites have experienced an exponential growth in popularity over the last year. Now more than ever, individuals are looking to expand their knowledge and upskill to give them the edge when they do eventually return to the workplace. Taking online courses in your spare time can help enhance organic skills and learn radically new ones.
Building and nurturing a strong set of technical abilities is a top priority and will prove crucial as the workplace gradually moves online in the coming years. Organisations such as CFTE are striving to help individuals in the financial industry fill the gap in terms of technological expertise, offering a multitude of courses on digital finance.
Occasionally, firms will endorse their employees’ efforts to learn new skills. If an employer feels you are trying to support your existing role through online education, they may offer a financial contribution to the course or suggest you make time in your schedule to complete it in office hours.
If not, and you do not possess the means to invest in online courses, sign up for free events and webinars regarding the subject you are interested in upskilling; there are plenty of free online certifications you can gain. This will also be a good step towards judging if you would like to invest in further formal education in the future in that specific area.
Joining Associations, Forums or Societies
Remember, everyone has something they can teach you. Joining an association, forum or society will prove advantageous in terms of discovering others with complementary skills gaps; enabling you to share your talents or experiences with other members and vice versa. Joining a society or forum will help you gain fresh insights which will enable you grow and develop in your role or gain crucial industry knowledge if you are just beginning your career.
Rhoades advises ‘tapping into your network’ and finding connections you already have that may be able to support you in exploring a new area of interest. Building a strong network will prove essential in the future both in terms of upskilling and career progression.
There are hundreds of forums and networks out there designed with the intention of supporting women throughout their careers, whether it is finding a new role, career progression or upskilling – like HerCapital. These organisations will also enable you to keep up with industry events and workshops that might prove useful when upskilling.
Become a Mentor or Mentee
Rhoades takes time to mentor others – peers, colleagues, and close family – which she admits is not just aimed at helping them make progress in the industry but enabling her to gain fresh perspectives. Rhoades says she has ‘always been interested in developing lifelong learning’. If you are a mentor, you are upskilling leadership skills, as well as other soft skills such as teaching, communications and team building. If you become the mentee, you could learn from someone who has more experience than you, this also gives you the opportunity to network and build a relationship with someone who can open doors and vouch for you.
As mentioned above, AI and revolutions in technology will dramatically change our working environments in the coming years, leading to a new importance on upskilling to stay relevant. However, the need for judgement will never disappear. Rhoades advises making sure you have emotional maturity, the ability ‘to bring emotional experience and judgement to bear on your work’ is vital to career progression – ‘there’s all that research that indicates the more senior you get, the less technical skills become important and the more your emotional skills are important’.
Further, Rhoades advises to try and think about the future continuously, question ‘what do I want to be doing in two years or five years? And what skills will I need to do that?’. Studies show women are less inclined to think about their future position instead happy to excel at what they are doing in the moment. On the other hand, men are constantly on the lookout for the next opportunity, and what they need to do to get there.
It is important to map out what you want from a career, so you can set your goals and choose the right areas to upskill. Upskilling an area of expertise that will not help improve your chances of career progression will be a waste of time.
Want more information and tips on moving up the corporate ladder - and getting the right compensation along the way? Then make sure to look at our other resources on the topic:
How to Initiate a Salary Discussion and Successfully Negotiate
What to Do If Your Salary Negotiation Discussion is Unsuccessful
The Rutherford x HerCapital Mentorship Initiative
In March 2021, Rutherford officially launched in partnership with HerCapital an initiative to create safe spaces where women in senior roles within financial services could coach and mentor ambitious women in mid-level functions who are looking to move up the corporate ladder and invest in their career. Find out more about the initiative here.
HerCapital was founded in 2019 with the mission to empower women to become financially independent and to take control of their income. The two founders, Zabreen Khan and Rabiya Ather, aim to create a strong community of women who are looking to become confident investors and to be equipped with tools who will help them be part of the conversation when it comes to investing and managing personal finances.
This initiative with Rutherford is enabling the non-profit organisation to expand its current horizons, by providing safe spaces for their community to discuss career goals and progression with well-established women in senior positions. This will help empower women to also take control of their career and future.
If you wish to know more about the initiative or get in touch with Rutherford to be part of the next session, please contact Genevieve Higgins-Desbiens, Head of Marketing & Talent Acquisition at Rutherford.