Why are there so few women in finance? It’s complicated

Hollywood is probably one of the best known industries that is considered a difficult place for women to climb. When Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Director award for The wounded locker In 2010, she became the first female director to win this coveted award. (Chloé Zhao, who won in 2021 by Nomadland, it was only the second). Not only is it remarkable that one female director won, but the group of female directors was so small. In fact, male directors have outnumbered female directors by a ratio of 20: 1 over the 13 years to 2020. That is a staggering statistic.

However, Hollywood is not an outlier when it comes to high-income industries where women are underrepresented at the top. There has also been a shortage of female workers among the upper echelons of financial management and investment services. Consider this: According to the Deloitte Center for Financial Services, only 6 of the 107 largest financial institutions in the United States had female CEOs in 2019.

Where are all the women in finance?

Studies paint a mixed picture for women in finance. While the percentage of men and women entering the field is roughly equal, men tend to get to the top faster than women. For example, among senior positions in venture capital (VC) firms, only 4.9% of partners are women. The outlook doesn’t get much more rosy when it comes to private equity (PE), where less than 10% of managerial positions are held by women. On the bright side, there is a greater focus on improving diversity, and the overall percentage of women joining mutual fund, venture capital and hedge fund firms is increasing.

When it comes to gender equality, there are a few reasons why women may not be moving to the top as fast as men. One is the lack of role models. Without more women paving the way, those entering the field may find the most challenging path to navigate or may not even know that there is a path. Some women have raised concerns about work-life balance, while others simply cite a lack of support from managers.

Key takeaways

  • Women and men start out at parity early in their careers in finance, but top management is still largely male-dominated.
  • Women need more role models and mentors among senior positions in finance
  • Non-profit organizations such as Girls who invest We offer programs to bring young women into the world of finance through internships and mentoring programs.

The impact of business school

When it comes to business school, those seeking degrees in finance and business are still men. For example, 44% of students who enrolled at Harvard Business School in 2020 were womenWhile at Wharton, only 41% of those enrolled in the MBA program in 2020 were women. (No statistics were reported for applicants who did not adjust for gender at any of the schools.)

Those titles can help open doors and create opportunities, so if the percentage of female enrollments increases, the playing field can begin to level. But it’s not just the grades that will help clear the way.

Invest in young women

Women need mentors and role models to show that any hurdles that have kept them from reaching, or considering, C-suite level positions can be overcome. And that means starting young.

Fortunately, there are a number of nonprofits and other women-focused organizations that are up to that challenge. Girls who invest, a nonprofit organization founded by financial expert Seema Hingorani in 2015, has an ambitious mission for women to manage 30% of the world’s capital by 2030.

Girls Who Invest programs and offerings are designed to motivate, engage and inspire young women to join the investment management and financial services field.

The mission is not new to Hingorani. Not only does she bring 25 years of investment experience to the nonprofit, but she has also been heavily involved in diversity initiatives. She is a member of Morgan Stanley’s Senior Leaders Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council and was previously the founder and chief investment officer of SevenStep Capital, an investment platform focused exclusively on women.

And she is not alone. Ellevest, founded by Wall Street veteran Sallie Krawcheck in 2014, aims to make financial products more accessible to women through investment tools, access to financial planners, education and training. The company motto says it all: “Ellevest was built by women, for women.”

Business schools are also getting in on the action. While not just focusing on financial careers, Rutgers Business School Center for Women Entrepreneurs aims to “remove barriers, build community, and empower women with the confidence and skills necessary to succeed as business leaders.”

The 18-member board is overwhelmingly female and is dedicated to increasing opportunities for women through networking events, leadership workshops, female-focused mentoring opportunities, and more.

The bottom line

Things begin to change. Men may continue to dominate top management, but as more and more women learn about the opportunities available in business and finance, seek mentors to guide them, and break down barriers, expect to see the gender gap begin to widen. change more and more.


About the author

Mark Holland

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