Women in Finance Reveal What it Takes to Get to the Top
By Ashley Brooks on 03/21/2016
You’ve been exploring new career options ever since it became clear that your current day job was never going to use your skills to their fullest potential. With your head for numbers and natural business sense, a career in finance seems like the perfect place to let your talents shine.
But being a female in the finance field isn’t always easy. The finance industry is a notoriously male-dominated field. In fact, a 2015 report revealed that less than 10 percent of all U.S. fund managers were women, and women ran only 2 percent of the industry’s assets and open-end funds.
But if you think statistics like these should prohibit you from pursuing a career in the finance profession, think again! Keep reading to hear valuable insight from some fierce females of the finance field that will change your mind.
The truth about women in finance
Some women are intimidated by the finance field because of horror stories about sacrificing work-life balance in a race to the top. Some have the perception that you need to be ruthlessly competitive to beat out colleagues for promotions and new opportunities.
But you don’t have to stay at the office all night or backstab your coworkers to make it to the top, according to our sources. There’s plenty of room for women in finance, despite what you may have heard.
“A woman can easily stand out in a field that is primarily dominated by men by being confident in her knowledge and abilities,” says Karey Williams, senior compliance officer at David A. Noyes.
So don’t let your fears keep you from a fulfilling career in finance. Take advantage of this advice from seasoned women in finance to help you make an impression from the get-go.
Tips to take you to the top
You don’t need to act like one of the guys to make it to the top in the boys’ club of the finance industry! These women in finance are sharing their real-life success stories with actionable tips you can use to find success in finance.
1. Find a mentor
It’s easy to become overwhelmed in a new position if you try to do everything by yourself. You’ll have much more success if you seek out a trusted female mentor you can turn to for advice and inspiration along the way.
“Hearing insight and encouragement from the fearless females in my network has not only opened new doors to career opportunities but has given me the confidence to tackle bigger goals,” says Ashley Souza, associate director of relationship development at Centerpoint Advisors, LLC.
Your education can help get your foot in the door, but it’s the wisdom of those who have paved the way before you that will give you a leg up on your competition, according to Souza.
2. Know your stuff
Don’t underestimate the power of a solid education in the finance world, whether it’s through traditional classes or knowledge gained by experience. Williams says she capitalized on every chance to increase her knowledge of the business.
“Take every opportunity to learn,” she urges. “Procure as much education on the job as possible, as well as licenses and certifications.”
A deep understanding of your work is critical in the financial field. One wrong move due to lack of knowledge or confusion could lead to huge losses for your firm or your clients!
“I find a lot of people claim to know so much only to find out how little they really do know,” says Bonnie Gayle, experienced business manager/bookkeeper and owner of KnowYourNumbers. “Make sure you have the knowledge and skills for what you want to go into.”
3. Take educated risks
It’s easy to blend in with the background at busy financial firms. It might be more comfortable, but you’ll never make a name for yourself by playing it safe.
But don’t confuse risk-taking with being reckless. Women aren’t always judged on equal footing with men when it comes to competency, warns Johnson. Unfair as it may be, this means it’s imperative that you have the numbers to show your superiors that your risky decision is founded in credible fact.
4. Make waves with your personality
Many women may think their femininity is a liability in the competitive, male-driven finance industry, but having an approachable personality can actually be an asset.
“I made sure I was always friendly, knowledgeable and approachable,” Gayle says. This type of helpful attitude can be rare in finance, which can make you stand out from your competitive colleagues.
Your clients will also appreciate your friendly demeanor. “Women are perceived to be better listeners. We should take advantage of that and let our clients know they’re being heard,” Williams says. There’s no faster way to prove your merit than by consistently impressing clients with a thorough understanding of their concerns.
5. Exude confidence
Having an air of confidence can be the key to achieving what you want from your finance career, according to Williams. It was a combination of hard work and perseverance that helped her land her current position of senior compliance officer.
“Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to be aggressive about what you want to do with your career,” Williams says. “Never take “No” for an answer when it comes to pursuing your dreams,” she says. You’ll command respect by having the confidence to let your personality and your ideas shine.
Ready to write your success story?
These female finance pros have proven it’s possible to thrive in the field. Remember this advice from women in finance as you begin your own pursuit to professional success.
But above all else, Souza has one last piece of guidance: “Stay true to yourself,” she says. “Put your best foot forward and stay true to the process that has made you a success.”
If you’re ready to find your place in the world finance, check out more inside insight about the field in this article: What I Wish I Knew Before Working in Finance.