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How to improve gender parity in the finance world

  • Posted on September 30, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

This article is excerpted from Thrive Global, which interviewed Sonia Webb, Avanade’s chief financial officer.

Q: Wall Street and finance used to be “all white boys’ clubs.” This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

In terms of gender diversity, I do think things have changed, especially in corporate finance. Of course, it’s certainly not where it needs to be yet, but there has been progress. For example, our internal finance team at Avanade is more than 50% women.

On the corporate side, there’s a lot of pressure now, rightly so, for corporations to be more diverse and inclusive. And while it is incredibly important to have a diverse leadership team, it is equally important to build inclusivity from the bottom up. This takes time but is the only way to drive sustainable change across an organization. In finance, we need to do what other fields have done: actively recruit diverse classes of new employees the entry level and then nurture, coach and provide support as these young careers progress.

At Avanade, we have a strong culture of mentoring and coaching, with specific programs for college STEM scholars and women at the company who will be the next generation of leaders. I would love to see that happen across our industry, so that as more young women see finance at the heart of every business decision and not simply a back office support function, they select finance careers and are given the support they need to thrive along their career journey.

Q: Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17% of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what three things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

My three recommendations are related:

 

  • Become an active advocate and ally. Look for opportunities to step up and advocate for programs that directly support a pipeline of women leaders.
  • Encourage mentoring, coaching and teaching. We all can learn from the experts in our field and we benefit from having champions who will talk through the challenges we face and, when appropriate, help open doors.
  • Don’t be afraid to coach someone — and don’t pass up the benefits that come from working with a coach. Personally, I benefit both from working with a coach and being a coach.

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