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IWD 2024: Empowering women in finance: navigating opportunities and challenges
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

In finance, my experience is that the historical gender balance has been relatively equitable. However, as the industry progresses, the need for purposeful efforts to ensure balance and flexibility for women in leadership roles becomes imperative. This International Women’s Day encourages discussions into the evolving landscape of workforce diversity, the progress of women in management roles, and the specific opportunities and challenges faced by women in finance. 

Workforce diversity is not just about gender but also about embracing diversity of thought, backgrounds, and experiences. Over the last two decades, technology companies have led the charge due to their global perspectives. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have become fundamental components within companies, fostering a more inclusive work environment.

Opportunities for women in finance

There tends to be a strong representation of diverse talent at early organizational levels, but the challenge lies in maintaining this diversity in senior leadership roles. Notably, Finastra stands out as a company with an executive leadership team comprising more than 50% women, emphasizing the value derived from such diversity. 

Despite progress, there is a need for further support to ensure women can successfully navigate responsibilities like parenthood and caregiving while pursuing management roles. Specifically addressing the finance function, there are a multitude of opportunities for women to ascend the ranks, offering roles such as Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A), treasury, corporate development, controllership, and CFO positions, providing a broad spectrum for career growth.

A career in finance is rewarding, but there are challenges

I have been fortunate enough to be part of organizations where finance has a seat at the top table and is part of strategy and day-to-day execution. Moving from large corporations to private equity-backed software companies, I’ve enjoyed driving a culture of investment, prioritization, and overall accountability. Additionally, my roots in FP&A have served as a crucial foundation, allowing me to understand different elements of the business holistically.

I’m fortunate to be able to attribute my success to colleagues and leaders who provided opportunities and guidance to me throughout my career. Experiences like leading a team to divest a business unit at Medtronic were pivotal in shaping my understanding of value optimization, as well as my overall career direction.

Despite increased participation by women in mid to lower ranks within finance departments, there is a persistent lack of women in CFO or senior finance management roles. Bias can exist in skills assessment and the need for a flexible and supportive culture are key areas requiring attention. 

How can we #InspireInclusion?

This International Women’s Day is focused on the theme #InspireInclusion. Finance should be about fostering partnerships and encouraging a focus on business growth, allowing for openness to new roles, attention to detail, and a willingness to embrace discomfort for personal and professional growth. Empowering women in finance requires a multifaceted approach, encompassing workforce diversity, leadership opportunities, and a supportive culture. 

My advice is to lean in. It’s always going to be a little uncomfortable to do things you’ve never done before, but the best growth comes amidst that discomfort. By learning from the experiences and insights of seasoned finance professionals, we can collectively work towards creating an inclusive and equitable future for women in finance.