Today, as we celebrate the role of women in financial services as part of International Women’s Day (#IWD2022), we hear some of the voices of experts working across different areas within financial services. We thank Louise Jeffreys, Sally Walton and Tosin James-Odukoy for sharing their own work experiences with us, as well as how they expect to see the gender gap in financial services continuing to close in future
Louise Jeffreys is Managing Director at Bristol-based financial services M&A experts Gunner&Co. She and her team work closely with financial services business owners looking to buy or sell businesses in the sector. Here Louise explains some of the changes she has seen in terms of the role of women in financial services and more generally in life as the positive shift in women’s careers in general.
Louise comments: “In the 7 years I have worked in the financial planning sector, I have seen more and more importance put on the female customer, and alongside that an understanding that female financial planners may be able to relate to female clients better (of course not always). This has developed a strong demand for female advisers, both at a grassroots level joining the profession and more experienced individuals finding themselves highly valued. On a more personal level, I have seen amongst my peer group and friends, more women taking the lead from a career perspective and husbands and partners supporting and facilitating that – the split of professional work vs domestic work norms certainly appears to be shifting positively.
“I would absolutely encourage young women into careers in financial services. With each generation women are becoming more independent both in how we choose to balance our home lives alongside our professional lives and also in terms of our financial independence. We need more female role models in the industry not only to highlight career opportunities but also to be on the other side, to support and counsel us in the financial decisions we make as we pass through various life milestones.”
Sally Walton is Managing Director, Wealth and Asset Management at Corporate Communications Agency, SEC Newgate. She has certainly seen a few changes over her 25 year career, describing it as a ‘seismic change’.
Sally comments: “I’m delighted to say I’ve seen a dramatic change in the number of women in senior positions since I first started in financial services. I believe we still have a way to go before there truly is a diverse workforce at all levels within an organisation but compared to the late 1990s there has been a seismic change. I’ve always worked in communications and there has never been a shortage of women but there was always a sea of men on the client side. Now I do feel the financial services industry is more diverse and it’s great to advise a more representative mix of both male and female clients.
“Financial services is a fascinating industry and I think that it’s a great career option for anyone starting out today. The most important tip I’d say for anyone is to gain the technical insight to support your opinions and to develop strong networks. The financial services industry is a surprisingly small world, in fact I’m still working with – and connected to – a great many people who I met 25 years ago.”
Tosin James-Odukoy is head of inclusion, diversity and talent acquisition at Quilter:
“This year’s International Women’s Day coincides with National Careers Week, which aims to help provide support for young people as they leave school and look to start work. It’s our hope that young women across the country view the plethora of roles within financial services as a potential option as not only does it represent a rewarding career but boosting the gender diversity of the sector will also help it thrive.
“It’s no secret that the financial services industry needs to recruit more women and from more diverse backgrounds. There are so many interesting roles within the sector but many of them are still dominated by men and this needs to change. Companies across the industry must encourage more women into leadership roles as this is critical to addressing the gender pay gap and helping to produce female role models, which are crucial to attracting more female talent.
“The sector has changed a lot in recent years, helping to break down misperceptions that it’s a ‘boys’ club’ or one where women need to work much harder to succeed. In fact, our research, for example, found that the more empathetic approach a female financial adviser might take during client meetings is very effective in building trust and people with this ability generally earnt more, proving strengths in so-called ‘soft skills’ are a win-win for both clients and advisers.
“It’s up to us as an industry to illustrate the interesting and varied roles available to all within financial services.”