International Women’s Day: Breaking Down Barriers

8th March 2018
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I am a 29-year-old single mother of one and have worked in the Finance Sector for almost three years. My academic background was not originally in finance though, having graduated with a 1st Class BA(Hons) degree in English before being accepted to the Welsh Financial Graduate Scheme in 2015.

During my time as a member of the scheme I worked for a number of leading finance companies based in Cardiff. I have had roles in areas such as account management in a global environment, hosting financial events and project management. Having joined the graduate scheme, I acquired an MSc diploma in Financial Services Management alongside full-time work.

I now work for Niche Independent Financial Advisers Ltd as a paraplanner. My duties vary from cashflow forecasting, to pension and investment research, to mortgage applications and much more. I enjoy my role at Niche and am fortunate to work for a supportive company. Niche offers a wide range of training and is supportive in helping me to achieve my career goals.

Expectations vs reality

Our school years are consumed with thinking and talking about where we want to be in our careers in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time. Whilst the boys may be talking to their careers’ adviser about becoming a pilot, a doctor or a stock broker, the girls are often being guided towards teaching, nursing and administrative jobs, presumably as these careers are generally believed to be more feminine. While girls are being guided in their career decisions they are also gently reminded to factor in their future aspirations to start a family. Despite how far we have progressed as a society, there is still a widespread belief that the onus is on women rather than men to raise the family and oversee the domestic elements of family life.

There are forward thinking employers out there who want to celebrate and embrace the skills and mindset brought to the fore by women in their office. There are companies who employ women who have had children and have been promoted. For instance, Niche IFA currently have a near 50:50 ratio of male to female paraplanners; some of these women are also mothers.

Forward thinking

The current aim here at Niche is to assemble a young, diverse team of paraplanners who will develop and grow to become the next generation of financial planners and IFAs. There are other forward-thinking companies in the financial sector with similar mindsets, and there is hope that many others will soon adopt this attitude. Given the current societal trend seeing the role of the father increase and the fluidity of gender roles, it should be no surprise that the business world is also starting to reflect and change.

It may be that when you first imagine a job in the finance sector, you think about a male-dominated environment pouring over numbers and computer screens. However, the reality of working within the finance sector is far more varied and colourful than these perhaps stereotypical images conjured up. The only way to change that view and make a career in finance more appealing is to educate our younger generations and be more pro-active in encouraging young girls, as well as boys, to consider their options more deeply.

It seems the way forward for businesses is to adapt, and openly begin to accept those who have been thus underrepresented in industries such as finance. It is important to promote the message that no matter what gender you are, or what background you come from, if you have a passion for a specific subject and desire a career in your chosen subject, you should be pro-active and apply. Change will only continue to be implemented if companies and individuals each do their part.

Appealing to a younger generation

A contributing factor to the lack of women employed in the financial sector is not just the potential for discrimination, but the lack of applicants for fear of just that, and in addition, the lack of education as to what the financial sector can offer. If I had not been accepted to join the Welsh Financial Graduates Scheme, I may not have progressed to where I am today, and I certainly would not have realised how diverse the careers available in finance are.

I applied to the graduate scheme not expecting to be accepted, given my lack of previous financial experience and qualifications at that time. However, the scheme was designed to give people like me (and potentially you) the chance to explore the vast opportunities that are available in the world of finance. To open the door of opportunity to the wider world and women in particular, we must start to encourage young people to open their minds and try new experiences.

It’s vital that as an industry we make a conscious and explicit effort to get our message out there. We must be proactive. We can start by engaging with our local communities and visiting schools and colleges and attending careers days. Here at Niche, we make a concerted effort to attend career days in local schools and show what we have to offer to pupils as a forward-thinking organisation. We also work very closely with the University of South Wales and offer ourselves to mentor many of their students during their academic journey.

Change is coming

It is important to remember that change is not implemented overnight. Since the first movement of the suffragettes in the 19th century, there have been strong improvements in the journey towards gender equality; however, there are some gender discrepancies that remain today. With the help of days like International Women’s Day and progression throughout society, we can attain our goal of eradicating many of the barriers that still face women who wish to work in finance.

Finance offers such a huge range of job roles from marketing, to customer relations, to business development and project management. The possibilities for women in finance are endless. Find a positive, forward-thinking employer and make the most of your chances; there are no limits to what you can achieve.

 

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