Gender imbalance within the finance sector is still a huge problem. According to the Financial Conduct Authority, gender diversity in UK’s financial industry remains low, with women making up around 17 percent of the sector’s senior positions. According to research, large investment management organizations tend to fare better when it comes to gender diversity in senior positions, while institutional brokerage firms are lagging way behind.
So, what can be done to change this embarrassing statistic? The great news is that some business schools are starting to get in on the action by trying to attract more women into finance, particularly at a higher level, through measures such as new curriculums and creating female alumni networks.
“Many young women shy away from considering a career in finance because of the misperception that it is all about number crunching. In reality, the area has more to do with strategic thinking,” explains a spokesperson from the education portal metalecture.com. “In addition, the cultural idea of an all-male boardroom persists, putting women off pursuing a career in financial management.”
A recent graduate of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Haley Parrin, explains: “A lot of it stems from misinformation about what the world of finance actually is. What goes on … is far more important than just getting the numbers right. That skill set is something a lot of women have to offer but don’t know how to apply to the financial services world.”
As educators of future leaders in the financial field, business schools should be at the forefront of breaking these misconceptions and boundaries. And many are doing their bit to change cultural perceptions of what it means to work in finance.
Jennifer Bethel who is a finance professor at Babson College in Massachusetts, says that it is important for business schools to “normalize” women’s role in finance. She says that today 50 percent of the college’s finance professors are female. “Thirty years ago, you didn’t have women finance professors, and now you have a lot of them,” she continues.
While this is definitely a step in the right direction, there are many other measures that business schools can take to make finance more appealing to women, from making females protagonists of case studies to giving real-life examples of women-led businesses. Schools can also invite female alumni and business owners to speak as guest lecturers.
While more female graduates at Babson College are actually ending up working in finance roles, Bethel says that promoting financial careers to women should start at schools. “Creating this chain is critical, so they can imagine what [the finance sector is early on],” she says.