Three Compelling Reasons for Women to Pursue Finance Careers

Jun 26, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

More women are seeking out jobs in the financial industry, according to 2017 edition of the Financial Times ranking of Masters in Finance programs. Representing the sixth straight year of steady growth, female students now make up 42 percent of all students enrolled in finance courses.

Which begs the question: Should you do your part for gender diversity by getting a finance degree? Read on for a roundup of three reasons to consider a career in this red-hot industry.

 

1. You could help prevent a financial crisis.

While the saying “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus,” may be hyperbolic, there’s something to it -- especially in the finance universe: Research suggests that introducing more women to the industry could have profound benefits. In fact, former Wall Street trader-turned-neuroscience and endocrinology researcher Joan Coates suggests that had women been in charge during the financial crisis, it might never have happened.

The overall conclusion, according to Coates?  “The financial world desperately needs more long-term, strategic thinking, and the data indicates that women excel at this. As banks, hedge funds and asset-management companies assess their current needs and more data emerges on the performance of women risk takers, the financial institutions will come, I believe, to hire more and more women.”

This perspective that a larger female presence in finance could make the system work better has been reiterated by many industry experts and insiders, including Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who famously posited, “What would have happened if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters?

 

2. You’ll be part of something much bigger than you are.

Making it in the fast-paced and competitive world of finance is hard enough, but the perceived challenges of working in a male-dominated field can send many women running the other way. Given the abundance of evidence suggesting their vast and untapped potential, this is an unfortunate phenomenon.

However, women who understand their value and work together to realize it position themselves to make real change. In a recent interview,  Ellevate Network CEO Sally Krawcheck revealed that networking is the most critical unwritten rule of business success -- particularly for women. This perspective is shared by Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote in Lean In, “The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves. Acting like a coalition truly does produce results.”

The best part? When you’re just beginning your career, focusing your efforts on finding mentors and building a network can help you succeed. However, once you’ve made it up the ladder, you can return the favor by becoming a role model and mentor for finance industry up-and-comers.

3. The work is surprisingly flexible.

The conflict between having a career and having a family is both very real and pervasive across all industries. However, many women find that finance work is surprisingly flexible, and growing more so by the day. In fact, one PayScale.com survey listed financial analysts among the top 10 “most flexible jobs” with 74 percent of people working as financial analysts checked the box for “On any day, I can change my schedule and time off.”  

In other words, while careers in finance may be demanding, they may also be uniquely suited to supporting work-life balance -- especially with HR and equality initiatives on your side. As Moira Robertson, chief financial officer, Europe region, for GE Energy Services, wrote for The Guardian of the sector’s shift toward more flexible work, “I agree that the finance industry is taking the challenge of the lack of women at senior level seriously and that it accepts that there is a pressing need to do something about it.” 

There is a catch, however. Robertson continues, “I do think there is an obligation for employees, men and women alike, to actually define what their work life balance is. One size does not fit all and in my experience the folks that do best at finding this are those who communicate clearly what it is that it means to them and then are able to plan constructively with their employer what can be done to achieve it.”

Nothing says being a woman in the finance industry is easy. But is “easy” really what you’re looking for from your career or your life? For women looking for something more -- for the chance to make a meaningful difference in an industry uniquely ripe for and in desperate need of their skills, talents and insights -- finance may be the ideal fit.

 

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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