Since I became a Financial Planner I have often pondered, especially in the early days when I would often be the only woman in a sea of men, why there were not more women in financial services. People often assumed I was a PA, not the owner of my own company. That’s something that has certainly changed over time, but we’re still not quite there.
Today is International Women’s Day, and this year the theme is “Choose to Challenge”. But what does this really mean?
A challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change. By choosing to challenge, we can help forge a gender equal world, celebrate women’s achievements, and raise awareness against bias. We can act for equality.
But we all need to do this. It is not just a woman’s or a young person’s thing. All people – and especially men – should be prepared to act in a way that promotes equality and diversity.
Not just a man’s world
Even Kamala Harris, Vice President of the USA had to literally reclaim her voice, recentre the attention and take back the microphone during a very high stakes debate, with a simple but incisive “Excuse me, I’m speaking”. And these words will forever go down in history. The phase became buzz-worthy after the 2021 Vice Presidential debates. She wasn’t aggressive or personal. She chose a winning smile and was polite but firm.
I think, just as Kamala Harris displayed, I have never considered myself unequal to any man (or woman for that matter). There are many women who lack the confidence to be assertive in a man’s world, for a whole host of reasons, but stepping forward and delivering that challenge is the key to change. Let’s not forget it’s just as important for men to challenge each other, too.
Bringing women into finance
So why are there fewer women in finance? Possibly this has to do with the information and encouragement available in one’s upbringing and education, but that is not the whole story. Historically, it has been seen as a male-dominated area of work, but I think it suits women just as well, if not better. It offers flexibility, a more entrepreneurial approach and more autonomy than many other jobs, and lends itself to motherhood, childcare and running a home as well, which many women accomplish alongside their careers.
My own past experience as a working mother keeps me mindful of those pressures and demands. If we want a rich and creative environment that many women bring (and I’m not saying men don’t, but occasionally it is assumed that women may just want a job and not a career), then we need to #choosetochallenge the stereotypes, the images and status that financial services often reflect.
Changing the game
In 2017, McKinsey & Co published a report, “Reinventing the workplace for greater gender diversity” and established three game-changers which distinguish best-in-class companies:
Furthermore, The McKinsey report believes, “It will take government and business-led interventions to create an environment that offers women better opportunities; enables them to train for and work in skilled, better-paying roles; reshapes social norms and attitudes; and supports work–life balance. To achieve this, companies will need to transform themselves by revaluating their traditional performance models and by challenging the long-term viability of their prevailing leadership styles”.
UNIQ Family Wealth has never specifically sought to be all-female – we have employed the people we thought were best for the roles, and it just turns out that only two of our ten-person team are men. Our board members are all women. Three members of our team and board are mothers with young children. We operate flexible working as far as we can, especially for anyone with children or parents who need care. We encourage career and personal development for all who want it, regardless of role.
Choose to challenge
I look forward to the day when we can just call ourselves ‘Financial Planners’, and ‘scientists’, and ‘doctors, without putting ‘woman’ in front of it. You wouldn’t call a man a ‘male Financial Planner’, or ‘male scientist’, or ‘male doctor’. It’s important to celebrate the increased presence of women in these fields, and it’s important for them to be visible so that younger generations never consider them out of reach. But hopefully, one day, we will no longer need to point it out as a special feature, because it will be the norm.
Whatever your gender, can you play your part in the change for women diversity and #choosetochallenge?