How can women succeed in Finance, often a male-dominated industry?

Head of trading at Ying Panagiotou shares her tips for women seeking to follow in her foot steps.

There are unquestionably still elements of the financial services industry that feel like a “boys’ club”. It can sometimes be a fast-paced, highly-competitive atmosphere, where perhaps women aren’t made to feel welcome and at times, marginalised. In addition, according to recent figures from the Financial Conduct Authority, under a fifth of chief executives, chief financial officers, and board directors among the UK’s largest 280 financial services firms are women.

However, this is changing, and I believe it’s for two reasons: the more collaborative culture of fintech companies, and women feeling increasingly empowered to make themselves heard in competitive environments. The first annual review of signatories to the Women in Finance Charter – a pledge set up by the government to encourage gender balance across financial services in the UK – revealed that 78% of the first group of signatories either increased or maintained the proportion of women in senior management.

Although there is a general perception that women feel less knowledgeable in trading, research continues to show that women who do trade often do it better than men. For example, recent statistics from Hargreaves Lansdown highlight that over a 12-month period, female clients saw their investment rise by 0.81% more, on average than their male counterparts[1].

However, it is still rare to see women in senior leadership positions in the finance industry. In my experience, some of the barriers might be time and inflexibility of the long hour shifts, and the availability to rapidly respond to changing markets in real time. Women who have children often have to carefully split their time between their career and family, whereas men are much less limited with their time.

Another key factor that might affect women’s attitude in finance is that they often feel that they don’t meet all the job requirements. Finance and trading in particular involves heavy analytics and analysis, which can make or break a deal, and as a minority in the industry, women might not feel confident enough to make these kinds of decisions.

However, most recently, the traditional finance sector, which has been a male-dominated industry for decades, is slowly seeing a significant change, due to the rise of young and agile fintech companies that are much more open to diversity and change. The days where women could not have a say in boardrooms are long gone. Instead, fintech start-ups have created an environment which is much more collaborative, where everyone has a voice, and anyone who wants to contribute can choose to do so.

While the industry is changing, women’s attitudes towards finance as an industry is also changing. I think women are increasingly realising their potential to become leaders within the field, and are becoming more confident of succeeding in challenging roles. This might be because the finance industry is much more responsive to women in senior leadership than ever before.

There has been a significant rise in great initiatives helping women to exceed in finance. There are now initiatives that empower women without a higher education in finance to make smart investment decisions and female specific awards recognise role models for women in the sector. These are important for encouraging women to explore and take on more senior leadership roles in finance.

At the beginning of my career, I felt I had to work harder than men around me to show my superiors that I was competent in my role. However, with age and experience I trust my own experience and abilities. I now know that I have the skills and knowledge that I need to excel in my job, and this gives me the confidence to take on a leadership role at a really dynamic and fast-growing fintech company. However, I understand how women who are just starting out might feel intimidated in a male-dominated industry. This is why it is crucial to take part and join some of the amazing initiatives that encourage and support women in finance.

I think it’s time for women to realise their competitive advantage in finance and use it for their benefit. Women are great at assessing risks, when making predictions they look at all possible outcomes, rather than making general assumptions or obvious decisions. Women are also great problem solvers, they are resilient, have great attention to detail and always look for the best possible solution. These are fantastic characteristics that women should be proud of and use to their full extent to rise through the financial sector and fulfil their potential.


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