It’s no secret that this industry is very male-dominated. Women have a hard time breaking in because there have never been that many to begin with due to a lack of opportunities. But this fear of being left behind, maybe is the driving force behind the determination of many female leaders in the finance industry. While it’s true that it wasn’t that easy of a start as compared to their gender counterparts and presents a whole new level of difficulty for these inspirational leaders of the industry, they overcame every challenge and are still fighting against the stereotypes.
The question arises, what is challenging when it comes to a career in finance for a woman? A common theory is, women – in general – tend to strive to achieve ‘precise’ perfection more than men do. This may lead to many opinions about insecurities in women like the fear of being incapable of meeting the required skill set in their current role. Let’s check how credible this theory is from some leaders in the industry. This blog contains words from:-
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According to them, having the right drive, determination to succeed, and the confidence to put yourself forward is what matters more. The challenges that these women have faced in their careers have been self-inflicted challenges that have arisen from working in a male-dominated service industry. This, for a woman, demands a change to be made and, for that, some bold but necessary actions to be taken in the career path.
To answer this, let’s perceive things more closely from their point of view to understand better.
One of these invited leaders started her career as an external auditor at Michelin and then, after two and a half years in public accounting, became an internal auditor. During that period while auditing credit, she decided on her career path and aligned herself with a mentor within the credit organization. With the help of organized strategic meetings monthly, she made sure to understand the ins and outs of the organization and credit. She wanted to be in credit one day which was the purposeful planning part of her career choices. The non-purposeful part was to deal with her ‘at-the-time’ manager. In the organization, as they always say, people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. She sought help from her mentor and asked if he had a job for her. It turned out very fortunate for her out of serendipity as she eventually launched her career in credit.
To her conclusion, aligning with mentors within the organization one within the credit organization will bolster the support and confidence. Making that relationship, not a one just on paper, but a very purposeful one is the key.
As someone can argue, the right opportunity can present itself to the right person at the right time, it was serendipity for one of our guests. She switched between 4 companies in over 40 years and each move was considerably timed but also was between different industries. This defined her as someone who was willing to try something new without being afraid of insufficient expertise in that field, which contradicts our previous theory about women’s insecurities. From a liberal arts major majoring in economics and psychology to data processing division in IBM, trained in aspects of technology that were unknown to her from the start. After 16 years, she was leading the sales and marketing of an environmental laboratory company. From there, she went to U.S. bank to manage their merchant acquiring division and was with U.S. Bank for 11 years and then moved to Natchez, a CEO leading the ECJ payment network.
According to her, she is still not sure anyone would call her career leaps logical but it does say serendipity played a definite role in her history.
Another story is of a strong woman who started out also an external audit but then moved to an internal audit and as per her boss’ decision – a lateral move to get out of auditing. Her opportunity came when, due to some control issues in logistics, there was a vacancy for an auditor. She took that opportunity and started her career in the supply chain. As she was moving along, there came an opportunity which presented a choice of role whether managing a small team of 5, she could jump in and create a spreadsheet and get the analysis done, or ordered a cash team of 60 people and couldn’t enter an order for a collection call. She couldn’t resolve a deduction but had a broad overview of the company. She chose the latter one but there were, and are, a lot of people issues.
People management for someone coming from an audit group and where there’s a lot of teamwork, she felt that was something she had to do. She has never looked back since then. To her perception, lateral moves and then stepping out of the comfort zone helps significantly in discovering one’s own potential.
Now coming to Eileen, her career started with an interview offer for a bank training program. Despite her personal choice not to become a banker, she accepted it as a personal challenge and got through it. After 18 months, she made it to the international division. It was the change in her personality trait she was willing to make in order to evolve. And then there was also Australia, a team of women could never be successful there.
Eileen said it’s stretching out of the comfort zone which is the key. Listening to herself and thinking about what that really means. Turning a no into a positive, making it a personal challenge and then finding those who support her in that has really been the theme of her career. A push one is willing to give her/his personality can really change the scenario.
Women face harder choices between professional success and personal fulfillment.
The first thing is family support, it plays a vital role for a woman when she plans her career. Here, the key is having pointed discussions with the young girls and providing them with enough support. While socializing & making relationships, girls need to understand that the people around them are going to support them in their careers and their life choices. And so they’ve got to choose someone who is willing to support them if they are willing to continue to break this glass ceiling and move forward. These are things that have to be considered as young girls are growing up.
The choices one makes early in life affect opportunities later. It comes down to the choices that they’re making especially when it’s hard for a young person to think about what a job is and what they want to be 10 years after.
Secondly, learning how to bridge the gap between professional and personal life while focusing on one is essential. And along the time, it can also be realized that both are intertwining. It doesn’t mean that you leave your personal life at the doorstep when you walk into the office to make recognition of the diversity of sex or religion. Rather, the motive is to be transparent and true to oneself to gain support from the surroundings. If you are not feeling vulnerable to your gender identical responsibilities, there is no one who can demotivate you. You will be respected for your efforts.
Third, there isn’t just one path forward, you need to be willing to adapt and change. One common thing is having a different perception that there’s only one career path and it’s straight and it’s up. It’s not possible anymore to be certain about it. To overcome this overwhelming stereotype, we need to be aware of our fellows to make them understand that a career path is very windy. Sometimes there are hills and valleys, and sometimes it’s not paved rather a dirt road or a jungle, but sometimes it can be a highway.
We have to consider the formal mentorship programs – not your typical mentor or maybe a mentor within your company – more of cross-company mentorship for women in totally different industries in totally different roles. These programs help bolster the self-confidence in young women about their choices. Yes, sometimes there is a risk in those early-stage choices but nothing big comes out without risk. And that’s why mentors are there, women who have been through a similar path can guide the fletchings by providing an open environment.
To be honest, women are diligent & hard-working, much more than men. Apart from office, women also are the in-charge of their households. And to one’s wonder, a woman is an expert at balancing her personal and professional life. But is that it? There should be something that attracts their curiosity and passion. Talking about it;
What if her job had space where she could be what she wanted to be back in school? Maybe a singer or maybe a painter? What if her job was her passion? Can we provide her with that kind of an environment in the workplace which oozes out the fearless inner child in her? Well, maybe we can.
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