Can you please tell us about your career journey? Was this the field you had intended to go into?
As a teenager, I wanted to be a sports agent but when my university didn’t offer that programme, I started to look at other careers. A fateful email from an alumnus on his bank’s diversity initiative invited women in sports interested in living in London to an information session about trading. I didn’t know much about trading but figured a 3 for 4 match was a good starting point. By the end of the hour I was hooked and had an interview for a summer internship. I loved the environment on the trading floor, but more than a decade later I took another risk by quitting my job to co-found my own company, RSRCHXchange.
Looking back, how have things changed over the past ten years in terms of diversity and career progression and what does the industry need to focus on today?
There have been diversity programmes for over 10 years at the firms where I worked. While those helped progress diversity, what has changed more recently is that the industry has had an ‘honesty moment’. Admitting that women are paid less than men is a significant step forward. The pay gap and the overall progression of diversity will stagnate unless senior management and boards are more representative. For women, in particular, it’s essential to offer career support and formulate a longer term plan to bridge those key years when women have children. Without that, I don’t see how women can be fairly represented in management and board rooms.
What lessons have been learnt and how can senior managers, but in particular middle managers, drive change and retain people?
Most banks are gender balanced at the junior and associate levels but gaps remain at senior management because of the higher propensity of women to leave the industry mid-career. What can be done to retain more women? Longer term career planning within a firm and having a champion are things other women have told me were key for them personally. The other, slightly more provocative, solution would be to centralise the cost of women on maternity. For a small team, maternity leave can make a big dent and this would free up managers from the short term pressures while also involving the firm directly in retaining female talent.