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What is the finance industry doing for women in finance?

When it comes to women in finance, the industry is still fighting a battle against the "old boys’ club" image.

The numbers still aren’t fantastic. There’s a way to go before we see more equality in the amount of women appointed in senior business positions. Maria Miller, Chair of Women and Equalities Select Committee and MP for Basingstoke, has warned that “companies need to be honest about the fact that their dominant culture is not neutral—it is white, male, heterosexual”. There has been slow progress in the appointment of women in senior executive positions, despite the rise in their promotion to non-executive director roles.

However, this doesn’t mean that progress hasn't been made. Women are certainly present in the finance industry: Christine Lagarde, for example, is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and during her recent tenure as CEO of Lloyd's, Inga Beale significantly modernised the bank. Government statistics published in March 2018 show that the UK's female membership of FTSE 100 boards now stands at a record 29%, up from 20% in 2014. Slowly but surely, it’s heading in the right direction!

What does this mean for female school leavers and graduates?

The finance industry is making efforts to change its culture every day, along with changes to industry regulation. This makes diversity one of the key areas for improvement. The exciting news is that there is plenty going on within the industry to encourage bright female school leavers and graduates to aspire to a top career in finance, banking or accountancy.

Some of the UK’s—and the world's—biggest banks, professional services firms, and finance firms are reaching out to female students with a bunch of new initiatives, talent academies, and events, looking to find female leaders for the firm.

As a female student with a real interest in finance, there are now schemes available which will allow you to shadow a female leader in a company, network with top women in a business to find out more about what they do, and there are even funding opportunities available from some institutions to help young women to fulfil their ambitions. Opportunities for events are publicised on company websites, and they are quite often open to female students from any year or degree discipline.

For university students, many finance societies now have branches for women in business. There will likely be many chances to network with employers through the course of university through these organisations.

Women in business initiatives and membership organisations

In the finance industry itself, there are now a number of organisations across the UK and the world which work to promote women in business, both on a national and international basis. There is tons of activity that goes on here to raise awareness: from conferences, forums, and annual awards to research, articles, and reports promoting awareness.

Some not-for-profit organisations you may well encounter and even get involved with if you enter a finance career are:

Internal networks in banks, professional services firms, and finance firms also exist for the promotion of women in the business. Partners will often represent the interests of specific groups within the company, within their own office and on a national and international basis.

There are also sections for women in business in national publications, which shed light on women’s experiences, statistics, and progress in the industry.

All round, there’s plenty going on to change the "old boys" stereotype and to bring in the new generations.

By Jos Weale

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