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The Path to More Inclusivity in Finance

By July 29, 20215 min read

Despite the gains in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, much work remains. While progress has been made in places such as university campuses, where women now outnumber men, finance and business degrees remain male-dominated. In 2018, men accounted for 61.5 percent of degrees in finance. As these are often the students who go into the banking industry, more effort must be made to encourage inclusivity in this field.

Declining numbers among women studying finance, paired with low job satisfaction from those already in the field, demand solutions to be identified and addressed at financial organizations for multiple reasons:

  • Representation: When a segment of the population is not represented in the workplace, you lose valuable perspective based on their experiences.
  • Risk management: Women tend to be more risk-averse. When evaluating new technology or strategies, having someone stop and ask a few more questions helps to uncover potential risks that may not have been otherwise
  • Talent acquisition: In an industry that tends to skew to an older demographic in the way of personnel, it is crucial to attract young, experienced, knowledgeable, and talented women for the sustainability of the organization.

As a strong advocate for women in the financial services industry, Natalie Bartholomew, Chief Administrative Officer at Grand Savings Bank, believes in empowering and forming stronger, more equitable communities through diversity and inclusion. Taking a step toward addressing this, Natalie launched her own website and blog in 2017, The Girl Banker. Her hope is to create a voice for women in banking and educate young women about the banking industry to increase their interest in joining the field. With her platform, Natalie has done just this – and more.

We recently sat down with Natalie as part of our Community Heroes series to discuss this important topic. Here are a few of our takeaways from our conversation:

Why Are So Few Women in Finance?

According to an article by the New York Times, women continue to be under-represented in the banking industry. At U.S. financial services firms, women accounted for just under 22 percent of leadership roles in 2019.

The case for more diversity in organizations has never been more convincing:

  • A gender-diverse workforce allows for enhanced collaboration and improved employee behavior and innovation
  • Diversity allows your brand to serve your increasingly diverse customer base better
  • Gallup study showed that a demographically diverse workforce could improve a company’s financial performance

In our conversation with Natalie, she shares her thoughts on two problematic areas for women. In her observations, and based on the current research available, women are not being promoted to top-level positions at the rate of their male counterparts. The lack of women considering a career in banking continues to deteriorate. These core challenges leave women under-represented in the boardroom and at executive-level conferences, limiting information sharing, education, and growth for the banking industry.

Based on the data and from the first-hand experience of many women in banking, women continue to be challenged in making it to the top. To solve this problem, financial brands must be devoted to improving diversity in the workplace and making effective, evident changes. Amend policies and practices to ensure that diversity is a part of the hiring, development, and employee retention strategy.

“Women in banking are loyal and supportive people, and great employees, banks need to embrace that.”

– Natalie Bartholomew

Pro Tip:

100 Women in Finance is an organization that advocates for women in finance careers. It strengthens the global finance industry by sharing success stories, offering resources, and creating a support network for women. Encourage your staff to join this organization or read their available resources.

Cultivating Cultures of Support

Seeking to achieve greater gender diversity in leadership will likely require significant changes in your culture. Evaluate your organization’s culture to determine if it reflects the diversity and inclusion policies you have in place. Do your company values related to diversity need to be strengthened or altered? A bank’s core values can only be supported by strong procedures, training, and a structure that continually reinforces these principles. Only then will culture change begin to occur.

An organization that fails to advance women to leadership positions is an organization has the potential of creating a culture where individuals do not feel valued, appreciated, or heard. And when more and more employees are stating that company culture is a critical decision-maker in either moving to a new company or leaving an existing one, it is a key factor that cannot be ignored.

Financial brands must adjust. This requires creating a more inclusive workplace culture that leverages diverse backgrounds at all levels.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Women

There is much work to be done to achieve gender parity in the financial services sector. According to Deloitte,  we might not see an equal number of women in overall U.S leadership roles until at least 2085.

This presents a problem.

As more women consider careers in the financial services industry, we need to use their stories to inspire the next generation of women. To do this, we must increase the number of women in top-level leadership roles.

Seeing other women like Natalie, blaze a trail and create senior-level opportunities in the financial services industry creates a ripple effect- motivating other women to join the industry. It proves to future generations that a career in the financial services industry is attainable and worthy of a woman’s career selection. Without emphasizing women in C-Suite executive roles, financial organizations could face a fatal talent gap.