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Speaker Series - Women in Finance with Camilla Sutton

By: Amy Ramsundar

Introduction to Women in Finance

The past decade has seen significant improvements in gender equality in the workplace, whereas advancements within the finance industry have been mostly stagnant. This contentious matter has been met with increased attention by financial institutions who claim to recognize the profitable value of differing perspectives and opinions. The reality of diverse groups leading to better investment decisions has influenced firms to implement elevated practices that discontinue the biased neglection that many are faced with during the attraction and selection process. To foster environments thriving with diverse thoughts, opinions and backgrounds, financial institutions have begun to introduce internal women’s networks and diversity hiring programs.

That being said, the common assumption that women no longer face challenges within the finance industry is incorrect. According to a study by Harvard Business School, competitive fields of finance such as venture capital, investment banking, and securities, all possess a wide variance between the representation of men and women in senior positions. This raises the question: are firms adopting the correct approach to combat barriers faced by women at all levels in the financial services industry?

The Gap in Representation

Further investigation of the gender gap at high levels in various capital market-related industries reveals that unchanging masculine cultures are an adverse and primary contributor. In the U.K., Investment Banks who have implemented family-friendly policies to offer flexible working arrangements have not seen significant improvements in their gender balance at senior levels. According to the UK Government Gender Pay Gap service, in 2018, the percentage of women in top quartiles at UK banks varied between 8% - 35.6%. Despite the existence of family-friendly policies in many global firms, a Harvard Business School study of 60 finance professionals located in both the US and Sweden revealed that the use of flexible working policies is not culturally accepted. Additionally, assimilating into masculine cultures creates barriers for women and those who refuse to conform.

An interesting perspective which challenges why organizations have been unsuccessful in solving gender-gap issues relates to the relationship between turnover rates and organizational culture. For fields such as investment banking, firms face some of the highest turnover rates relative to other industries. A 2017 survey by Quinlan & Associates regarding the satisfaction of investment bankers concluded that out of a pool of 1000 respondents, one-third of bankers intended to resign from their current position within the next 12-24 months. The aforementioned talent crisis suggests a deep-rooted dilemma present in financial institutions which makes it difficult for leaders to shape organizational culture and influence the values of employees. Another argument regarding why men are the dominant gender in the corporate world, specifically within industries such as finance and STEM, is that on average women exhibit less confidence. This argument, while not completely erroneous, is misleading as it suggests that women are solely responsible for closing the gender gap and can simply advance their career if they exhibit more confidence. While it is important that women aim to develop boldness within their careers, it is imperative to reflect on whether or not strategies employed by institutions are truly effective in fostering inclusive environments.

You can learn more about this topic at the 2019 Queens Women in Leadership Conference where Camilla Sutton, the President and CEO of Women in Capital Markets (WCM) will be speaking. WCM is a national not-for-profit that aims to accelerate gender diversity within financial services. Camilla has over two decades of experience in capital markets with roles such as Scotiabank’s Global Head of Foreign Exchange, Scotiabank’s Chief FX Strategist, Portfolio Management at OMERS and Equity Research at BMO Capital Markets. During her keynote, Camilla aims to address what women can do when entering the workforce to exhibit confidence and excel in uncomfortable situations; as well as unsuccessful and successful strategies employed by companies and what they can do to bridge the investment gap. Resources:

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