FLASH FRIDAY: Women in Finance Awards, Eight Years On

FLASH FRIDAY is a weekly content series looking at the past, present and future of capital markets trading and technology. FLASH FRIDAY is sponsored by Instinet, a Nomura company.

Last night, Markets Media Group held its eighth annual U.S. Women in Finance Awards event.

There were 36 awards presented, each to a successful woman with her own unique story of talent, determination, and drive. Our U.S. WIF program has expanded since the inaugural 2015 program, and each year’s nominations seem to be a deeper group than the preceding year.

More importantly, how has the broader cause of women in finance evolved since 2015? 

It is a mixed picture. There have been high-profile success stories, for example Citi appointing Jane Fraser CEO in 2020, marking the first time a major Wall Street bank had a woman at the helm. And there is some progress as reflected in overall trends – women in financial services C-suite increased by 10% in the 2016-2020 period.

But there remains much progress to be made to achieve a true gender-neutral level playing field in the finance industry. 

“Gender representation remains a significant issue, even with the effort so far,” stated the Women in Finance Charter Blueprint, published earlier this year by consultancies Aviva and Bain & Co. “Historic progress has been slow (1 pp in 2 years)…At this rate it will take ~30 years to reach parity.” 

“There are structural and behavioral barriers that impact recruiting women,” the report continued. Barriers cited include narrow talent pools, with women under-represented in some key academic subjects, and gendered recruitment content that results in unintended bias.

To remedy, the report stated that specific actions can be taken at each step of the recruitment journey to enable more equal outcomes for women candidates. For mid-career women, so-called ‘returners programs’ have proven effective at bringing back talent. 

With regard to retention and promotion, the report stated that women continue to face unequal remuneration compared with men, which is exacerbated by a lack of pay transparency and women’s reluctance to negotiate pay.  

Ultimately the report outlined myriad ways in which financial services companies can systematically level the playing field for women employees, enabling better outcomes in recruitment, retention, and promotion. Numerous success-story case studies were cited, at companies including LSEG, Santander, BlackRock and Citi.

What will the next seven years bring to the cause of women in finance? Hopefully, continued, but more sustained and meaningful improvement.