The Financial Sector and Gender Diversity

As a traditionally male-dominated industry, the financial sector is becoming more gender inclusive. More firms are realizing that empowering females to work at all levels increases innovation and moves organizations forward. Here are three ways the financial sector is working to promote gender diversity.

  • Welcoming Females in Finance

Major firms are forming special programs welcoming females into the financial services industry. For example, Merrill Lynch partnered with the Columbia Business School to launch Greater Returns, a program designed to welcome females reentering the workforce. The program provides opportunities for networking and leadership development to help females advance their careers. Goldman Sachs launched Returnship Initiative, similar to an internship but focused on providing intense training, mentoring and work experience for females restarting their careers. In addition, Bank of America launched Career Connections, designed to maintain connections with female alumni from financial organizations who took time off from their careers and want to reenter the workforce. When senior- and mid-level executives plan on taking off for one to three years, the executives help create a return plan and a schedule for contact and communications. Executives may still participate in company events to increase their skill sets. Upon returning to work, executives have a customized onboarding plan and peer coach to assist with the transition.

  • Adding Female Board Members

Increasing numbers of female board members in the finance industry are being reported. Opening up additional positions of influence for females will continue encouraging gender diversity in the field. For example, traditional qualifications for directors, including financial and operational skills and industry experience, are being replaced with qualifications such as technology and cybersecurity skills and international experience. Also, imposing a mandatory retirement age and term limits for directors can facilitate board composition changes. However, because the majority of banking and capital market companies lack a mandatory retirement age for directors, many directors serve long into their 70s. Because the majority of banking and capital market companies lack term limits for directors, the average tenure is eight years.

  • Modifying Company Policies

Many financial organizations are modifying company policies to accommodate the needs of female employees. Many firms are allowing remote work and flexible schedules to empower females to purse high-ranking roles. Also, many benefits are being added to provide support for females’ health and child care needs. Employees are being trained to identify gender discrimination and its effects on the workplace and business outcomes to cultivate a more inclusive work environment. Furthermore, programs are being designed to provide females with access to professional development opportunities to help advance their careers.

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