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.
By 2022, 54% of all employees will require significant retraining and upskilling. Of these, about 35% are expected to require additional training of up to six months, 9% will require reskilling lasting six to 12 months, while 10% will require additional skills training of more than a year.
According to The World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs Report 2018’, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will, if it hasn’t already, disrupt conventional business models and significantly alter the skills required to do most jobs. Technological innovation and sweeping globalisation have changed the border between human labour and mechanised processes dramatically. Therefore, business leaders will need to address skill gaps within their workforce to remain successful.
In the financial services sector, reskilling and upskilling will require significant investment. However, a renewed focus on the importance of human capital will not only prove critical in overcoming systemic technological change, but vital to nurturing a successful, inclusive, and dynamic working culture.
A revolution in upskilling and reskilling existing workforces will be particularly valuable for women. Sadly, female representation falls off in mid-level and senior positions in the financial services industry, often due to a lack of support and commitment to issues surrounding work-life balance. More needs to be done to upskill and retrain female employees to empower them to move up the corporate ladder.
As a woman who took a career break to care for her two young children and pursue writing, and against the odds managed to work her way to the top, Joy Rhoades is passionate about encouraging lifelong learning and professional upskilling. Below are some ways the industry can aid female career progression with a focus on upskilling and retraining.
Changing Attitudes to Career Breaks
Often, women struggle to balance their work-life priorities and find themselves having to take career breaks to effectively manage childcare or to pursue other goals. Unfortunately, many women believe taking maternity leave or partaking in flexible work schedules will negatively impact their success at work. Taking a break can cause women to feel displaced or undervalued when they do return, unable to catch up with changes in the workplace - especially technological shifts.
Margo Cook, President of Nuveen Advisory Services, states that "finance careers don't feel friendly to women. Some women are attracted to related industries, like consulting or accounting, where the structure better allows for them to have kids and then re-enter the workforce without the sense of falling behind. But the finance industry can do a better job of that. We as an industry we must figure out how to keep women through the course of their career".
Promoting courses or incentivising upskilling to women while they are on career breaks, may be the answer. For business leaders, it is essential that they not only support women financially during their career breaks but help them broach skill gaps, increase their skill base, or generally keep them in the loop. Failure to support women or men during their career breaks will cause them to feel displaced both technically and emotionally when they do return.
Supporting Lifelong Learning
Organisations and business leaders should be encouraging their employees to pursue lifelong learning, to promote skills development and an ‘agile mindset’. Rhoades is a great believer in engaging in skills that will support you throughout your career, or help you move into different pathways.
During a virtual roundtable with Rutherford and HerCapital, Rhoades explained how she completed a Master’s in Adult Education at New York University while working at JPMorgan, so she could have the ‘scaffolding’ to convey ideas to people and support those around her wanting to learn. Rhoades not only endorses a proactive approach to lifelong learning but believes firms should support upskilling by creating development programmes internally or by granting flexible work schedules that factor in further education.
Encouraging employees to explore lifelong learning can prevent career stagnation, by helping individuals move up the corporate ladder or laterally into another area of interest. Further education and upskilling do not have to be time consuming or a huge investment, you can harness a new skill by studying little and often; with plenty of online courses offering flexibility in terms of payment, deadlines and working patterns.
Utilising the Workforce
As a business leader, investing in comprehensive external training programmes is no doubt beneficial to upskilling or retraining employees. However, either prior to or alongside formal training, it is crucial that firms explore and utilise the skill base of their current staff. Encouraging employees to share skills is not only a cost-effective solution to upskilling and retraining an entire workforce, but essential to cultivating a collaborative and empowering working environment.
Skills need to be developed and shared within a company if it is to succeed. Rather than ignoring skill gaps within a workforce, firms should inspire employees to embrace and exchange new skills; this will prove critical to navigating the crisis poised by the influx of new technologies. In turn, sharing and developing skill sets will aid in building a workforce with an ‘agile mindset’, which The World Economic Forum sites as essential if firms want to remain relevant and successful in the current climate.
Broaching skill gaps by evaluating and embracing the existing strengths of a workforce is a reliable and cheap approach to upskilling. Further, it will encourage employees to exchange ideas, techniques and knowledge between different departments and levels, promoting a collaborative culture. This is especially crucial for women, allowing them to gain the same skillset as their male counterparts and empowering them to speak up in the workplace.
Benefits of Upskilling
Automation and AI among other technological advances, will continue to shake up conventional working practices and enlarge skill gaps that already exist. Therefore, firms that offer their employees the latest technical skills – at all levels – will be the most likely to succeed in this new digital era.
Reskilling and retraining, especially in terms of technology, will allow organisations to build a versatile and adaptable workforce, which will enable them to better understand and grasp changes when they occur. Those firms that neglect to upskill their staff, will be unable to harness new technologies and subsequently fall behind.
Importantly, upskilling presents an exciting opportunity to empower women within the corporate world and enact change in terms of inclusivity and diversity. By encouraging staff to share and embrace new skill sets internally, business leaders and employers will be able to nurture a collaborative culture where all voices are heard. Upskilling and retraining will allow firms to properly utilise their female talent, while providing them with the skills needed to move up the corporate ladder and into leadership positions.
As stated above, upskilling, or training an existing workforce is important because it can be a cost-effective route and is occasionally less hazardous than hiring from outside. That said, it is worth stating that it can be better for company culture and more economical to hire externally; maintaining the same employees for too long can damage profits and lead to business stagnation. The next section will explore moving internally and externally, as well as discussing the right time to move and the benefits of doing so.
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 and 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 careers 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.