Women Mean Business
Updated: Feb 22
Bronagh Cassidy, Equity Analyst at the University College Dublin Student Managed Fund
The last 100 years have been a huge step forward for women’s rights. From being subjugated to working only in the home, being seen and not heard, to now being pivotal figures in many organisations, bringing talent and expertise, we have come a long way. Yet, a gap remains. We talk often of the ‘glass ceiling’, ‘sticky floor’, maternity leave issue, and the myriad barriers to entry for women in the corporate world. So, what is the current state of play for us, young women hoping to begin a career in high finance or otherwise?
It is a well-documented phenomenon that women in high powered positions are commonly afflicted by imposter syndrome. For those not familiar, imposter syndrome is defined as an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. Typically, it is referred to in the context of intelligence and achievement, and also closely linked to perfectionism and the social context. A 2019 report by Access Commercial Finance showed that two thirds of women had experienced ‘feeling like a fraud’ at work in the 12 months prior to being questioned, as compared to only half of men. Many executive women also experience imposter syndrome around times of promotion, as they sense their colleagues believe, wrongfully, that they are only being promoted because of their gender. I empathise with these women. It is certainly not easy to sit at a table as the only girl, and speak with confidence, avoiding concluding each sentence that may possibly indicate you know what you are talking about with a ‘I’m not sure I could be totally wrong’ or the classic ‘You’re probably right though’. The onus is now on these companies to ensure that professional women are no longer a minority and are well-represented, giving them a supportive environment to flourish.
Currently, among senior roles in venture capital and private equity, women hold just 9% and 6% of the positions, as investigated by Harvard Business School. In 2019, only a mere 6.6% of women lead Fortune 500 companies. The most striking statistic of all is that in 2018, more of the newly minted CEOs at America's largest companies were named Jeff and Michael, than were female. How can we begin to bridge this gap, and make finance and business a more attractive sector for young female applicants, who may suffer from these feelings of self-doubt and lack role models working in the area?
Luckily, many firms have made a strong commitment to gender quotas and introducing gender diversity into their workplace. For female college students like myself, banks such as Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, and many others offer specific insight opportunities for girls interested in the industry, Bain award a True North Scholarship for Girls, PwC have a women in business work experience programme, to name but a few. A notable resource for prospective female finance employees is the non-profit organisation ‘Girls Who Invest’, created by financial expert Seem Hingoraniwith. Founded in 2015, their visionary’s mission is that by 2030, 30% of the world’s capital will be managed by women. They run a summer pilot programme over four weeks, to teach female college students core finance, market, and asset management concepts.
There are still many issues in the sphere of gender equality and the working world that we cannot address in a single article; the wage gap, the notorious ‘boys club’ of finance stereotype, among others. Insight programmes are certainly not going to solve them all, but if they can help some girls avoid the plague of imposter syndrome starting out in their career, they are a good place to start.
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