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.
The Impact of Gender Stereotypes and Biases on Women’s Progression in the Financial Services Industry
Gender stereotypes and biases have long been barriers to workers in the financial services industry, particularly towards women workers. Evidence shows that women are often passed up for promotions and other opportunities compared to their male counterparts, crucial decision-making roles remain overwhelmingly occupied by men, with women often pushed into lower-paying positions or jobs offering fewer chances for promotion thus affecting their career advancement within the industry. Furthermore, financial services are still seen as more suitable or appropriate for men than women, leading to presumed ability gaps and making it difficult for women workers to transition into new roles.
The notion of female workers being less capable than males in the field can also cause feelings of self-doubt and reduced confidence among female workers in financial services, further hindering their ability to succeed professionally. It's important to recognize that gender stereotypes significantly impact women's progression in this sector – understanding its effects is critical to promote greater equality and inclusion of workers across all genders.
The Role of Company Culture and Policies in Promoting Gender Equality and Diversity in the Workplace
In the financial services sector, workers benefit from companies that strive to uphold gender equality while also celebrating diversity. Companies have an important role to play in the realization of a more equitable, balanced professional world. By proactively establishing company culture and policies geared towards promoting gender parity, workers of all gender identities can feel safe, accepted, and respected in the workplace.
Company cultures that recognize workers’ unique perspectives and strengths often result in better employee satisfaction and improved performance. Practices such as offering fair salaries to workers regardless of gender identity can make women feel more secure in their positions as well as reduce gender inequalities among workers of different backgrounds or job roles. By implementing respectful workplace policies, companies in the financial services industry can successfully cultivate an inclusive and collaborative workforce while strengthening their support within their industry.
The Importance of Sponsorship and Allies in Advancing Women’s Careers.
Women in leadership roles remain an under-represented minority, but the tide is slowly turning. Women need more support from sponsors and allies in order for progress to be made, especially in traditionally male-dominated industries such as financial services. Women are more likely to succeed when they are connected with a mentor or sponsor who actively champions their work and encourages growth opportunities. Sponsorship can provide invaluable access to advancement opportunities that lead to expansion of real career options – from job postings and allocations, to salary increases and engagements in higher profile roles.
Women need champions at every level of their own organizations as well as other organizations, in order for individual progress that leads to greater progress for women overall. Women's success across all aspects of business will be driven by sponsoring companies, supportive allies and mentorship that opens doors and creates paths to leadership advancement.
Key Behavioural Skills
Being good at the basics will enable you to take your first steps into a firm smoothly and build a good rapport over time. However, if you want to move up the corporate ladder with efficiency, practicing and honing a more nuanced set of skills may be the answer. Rhoades identifies three ‘underrated’ skills you can subtly tweak to build trust and gain authority in the workplace: responsiveness, succinctness, and presence.
According to social psychologist and bestselling author Amy Cuddy, people mentally answer two questions when they meet you: Can I trust this person? Can I respect this person? To influence others, you need them to trust you and see you as competent. Responsiveness, succinctness, and presence are behavioural skills that enable you to build a strong rapport within a company – allowing you to take control of the narrative and move up the corporate hierarchy.
Communicating early and often is crucial to building great working relationships. It may seem obvious, but keeping others in the informed concerning your activity, progress and results in the workplace is vital to proving your competency and worth. Responsiveness is a behavioural approach you can purposefully cultivate; it is easy to do but takes effort and courage.
Primarily, you should make sure you are responding efficiently and following up pre-emptively. For example, if someone contacts you concerning a question or subject you do not have any information on, you should respond regardless – taking time to acknowledge you have received their query and will be in touch when you have an answer. Postponing a response until you have the correct information will make you look unprofessional and negligent.
Essentially, responsiveness is managing your communications with a dual commitment to speed and clarity. Do not underestimate the power of timely responses and attentiveness. A responsive approach will ensure others trust you, which will no doubt lead to career progression.
Succinctness means you can express ideas or information explicitly using little words. Being succinct works in tandem with responsiveness, they are both behavioural skills that enable you to get straight to the point and keep others well informed; allowing you to lead the narrative.
Brevity is useful in any industry; it demonstrates you can digest a large chunk of information and then summarise with confidence. Rambling is never recommended; it weakens your position in a conversation by muddying the initial message, suggesting to others that you are not in control of the situation. As Rhoades states, ‘being succinct allows you to take control of a room’, by expressing competence and professionalism.
You can practice being succinct by trying to cut out unnecessary words in your verbal and non-verbal dialogue – there are plenty of exercises for this which you can find online. If not, try summarising documents or information given to you in the workplace. Being succinct will allow you to communicate clearly and with authority, which should smooth the path towards leadership positions.
The economist and Columbia University Professor Sylvia Ann Hewlett defines presence as a ‘combination of gravitas, communication, and appearance. Together these elements form an impression of trustworthiness, competence, and authenticity’.
Essentially, presence means having conviction in yourself and your abilities, and demonstrating this through your outward appearance. Nurturing presence means paying attention to non-verbal behavioural cues, such as body language, clothing and even the way you speak. For example, try to mimic the clothing of those in positions of power to suggest confidence and professionalism, or try out Amy Cuddy’s ‘power poses’ to gain an aura of authority.
Cultivating presence is vital, without it you are unlikely to progress into leadership roles which demand charisma and a sense of authenticity – small changes in your appearance, attitude, and voice can lead to big changes in your career.
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:
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.