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Big Banking Is a Man’s Job (or So the Numbers Say)


Women have struggled for equality in the corporate world for decades now, but gender inequalities still exist in a select few industries. We’ll take a look at how women are still vastly underrepresented in big banking and provide tips on how they, too, can have a successful career in such a male-dominated industry.

banking and financial services industry

(Photo Credit: reynermedia/Flickr)

According to American Banker Magazine, Beth Mooney, chairman and CEO of KeyCorp, topped the list of The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking of 2013, and of those women, “only three of the 25 hold top stops in their firms,” says The 2013 Catalyst Census revealed that, “Fortune 500 Women Executive Officers and Top Earners, which counts the number of women in upper management in Fortune 500 companies, women are 17.6 percent of executive officers in the finance and insurance industries.” Women may have made a dent in the banking world, but they’re still vastly underrepresented and overshadowed by the “old boys’ club” mentality that is still very prevalent in the industry today.

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In her acceptance speech for her American Banker award, Mooney declared that she has an “extra obligation to do [her job] well” for the “daughters” of the financial services industry, and she provides four pieces of career advice for female banker hopefuls: 

1. Always be your best

2. Be of service

3. Be grateful

4. Be conscious of your legacy

“A woman can deliver results just as good as a man. Gender does not matter to results,” says Mooney. Therefore, females in the professional world, especially in male-dominated industries, are encouraged to not bog themselves down with fears and insecurities of failure or not being good enough to perform a “man’s job.” Mooney acknowledges that, “Seeing women recognized [for their professional achievements] strikes a resonant cord in other women” and encourages them to mirror the trailblazing females that came before them – and the cycle continues generation after generation.

Hopefully, Beth Mooney is doing for the banking industry what Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer did for the tech industry, and what Mary Barra did for the car industry. Women need to be encouraged to pursue top-ranking positions in male-dominated industries such as banking, finance, and tech in order to eliminate level the playing field once and for all.

If you’re a woman looking to establish a career in banking, here are three tips to help you succeed in this (and any other) male-dominated industry.

1. Be confident. Don’t give into the idea that you have to act like a man to do your job well. According to a Caliper study on what distinguishes a woman (versus a male) leader, “The strong people skills possessed by women leaders enable them to read situations accurately and take in information from all sides. This willingness to see all sides of a situation enhances their persuasive ability,” whereas men tend to be more biased toward their own opinions.

2. Find a mentor. There’s no better way to build your confidence as a minority in your profession than to find a mentor in your industry (male or female) who supports your career efforts completely. By having a mentor within your industry, you will have access to their lessons learned, as well as expert advice from that seasoned individual – not to mention their vast network of connections. 

3. Know what you want. If you don’t know where you’re going, then how do you expect to get there? Be crystal clear on what it is that you want out of your career, so that when the going gets tough, you have the self-motivation and strength to push through the difficult times in your career. Otherwise, you will fall victim to failure and not have the adequate vision or support to forge forward.

Women are making such huge strides in male-dominated industries in the last couple years, and they’re establishing a solid foundation for the younger generations of female leaders to build upon. Hopefully, 2014 will be the year for women in the financial services industry to break down barriers and narrow the gender inequality, just as 2013 was for women in tech

Tell Us What You Think

Are you a female in a male-dominated industry? What advice do you have for younger females looking to establish thriving careers in your industry? Share your advice on Twitter or in the comments section below

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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