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What is the Finance Industry Doing for Women in Finance?

When it comes to women in finance, truth be told the industry is still fighting some battles against the ‘old boys’ club’ image.

The numbers still aren’t fantastic. There’s a bit of a way to go before we see more equality in the amount of women appointed in senior business positions. Maria Miller, minister for women, has warned that “companies need to be honest about the fact that their dominant culture is not neutral – it is white, male, heterosexual”. There’s 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 isn’t been made. Women are certainly present in the finance industry: Christine Lagarde is the MD of the IMF for example, and Inga Beale is the first ever female CEO of Lloyd’s (it’s only taken 350 years!). Government statistics published in March 2014 state that the UK is on course to hit a government target of 25% female membership of FTSE 100 boards by the end of 2015. Slowly but surely, it’s heading in the right direction!

What does it mean for female school leavers and graduates?

The finance industry is making efforts to change its culture each day along with changes to industry regulation. This makes diversity one of the key concepts 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 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 the female leaders of 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 how they got there, and even funding opportunities available from some institutions to help young women to fulfil their ambitions in the industry. Opportunities for events are publicised on company websites, and are quite often open to female students from any year or degree discipline.

For university students, many finance societies now have women in business branches too. There may well be more chances to network with employers through the course of university with 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 of a national and international basis. There’s tons of activity that goes on here to raise awareness; from conferences, forums and annual awards to campaigns and promoting awareness through research and writing articles and reports.

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

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

By Jos Weale, Editor, AllAboutFinanceCareers.com