Lack of awareness leads to skills gap for women

Although genders are relatively balanced across business degree professions like accounting, more technical areas like investment management and financial planning are in need of better female representation.

Speaking at the Stockbrokers and Investment Advisers Association (SIAA) conference, Yolanda Beattie, founder of Future IM/Pact, said there were multiple factors holding back the representation of women in technical roles.

“It starts off at university where women are actually entering the typical commerce degrees or business degrees, economic, science... in fairly equal numbers to men,” Beattie said.

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“The issue is the perception and awareness of some aspects of financial services at university.”

She said women were proportionally following career paths in areas like accounting and business consulting but less so in more technical fields like financial planning and investment management which required more experience than just a degree.

“So rarely will you get a graduate going straight into investment management and front-office investing, for example, it means that there's this gap that happens from university to that three-to-five-year career mark, where you're actually making some of those more specialist decisions.

“What that means is, if a woman at university doesn't have an ambition and isn't inspired to enter investment management or financial planning, they're much less likely to make the choices outside of university to set themselves up for those junior analyst roles.”

Beattie said some more of those more technical roles suffered from the ‘Wolf of Wall Street cliché’ which was off-putting for women.

“Yet, when you're going to a front office investing team, it's really much more likely to be a bunch of very conscientious, deep-thinking people solving complex problems than it is about the craziness that might be displayed by Hollywood.”

Once women were within technical roles, Beattie said, they faced structural unfairness with research by Future IM/Pact showing women were 50% more likely to leave front-office investing as men and 30% less likely to be promoted over men.

“Teams are small, turnover is low, which means it's very difficult for any one fund to tackle all of those issues, because of the size of the problem.”

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