The Exodus of Women from Financial Services
Women are exiting the financial services industry faster than men, and faster than they leave other industries according to “Women in Financial Services,” a 2016 study conducted by Oliver Wyman. The report points out that the most vulnerable time period is mid-career, from 30 to 50, when the costs of staying outweigh the benefits women receive.
At mid-career, women often have caretaking responsibilities – children, parents and sometimes both. Recently, I attended a women’s symposium where a speaker was asked the secret to how she balanced her work and family obligations. Her response struck the nail on the head for me: “I’m asked that question often, but why doesn’t anyone ever ask my husband that?”
The Wyman report lists a number of policies companies should put in place to improve retention of the valuable resources in which they’ve invested. However, the report also states that policies best serve as guidelines, and effective solutions should be flexible in order to address individual situations.
Starting at the Grassroots
At the Milwaukee campus where I work, we recently held our first meeting to explore women’s concerns. More than 40 women took part and, despite coming from different disciplines, levels and tenure, almost every one voiced similar concerns.
Several questions arose around the subject of how women can effectively climb the corporate ladder. These included:
- How can a networking structure be created within the organization for women to find out about opportunities? Women often keep their heads down and work hard, without placing enough importance on taking time to network, which is a key factor in consideration for promotion.
- How can women prepare for opportunities? We discussed the need for mentors who can help women develop skill sets required to move to the next level.
- How can a woman “get her name out there” for consideration? Organizations need effective sponsors from wide spheres of influence to explain what skills need to be built (if those skills are missing) and to put forward candidate names when positions open.
During the meeting, we also discussed the importance of developing our negotiation skills, not only to become more effective employees but also to gain equitable pay.A Carnegie Mellon University study points out that female graduate students who haven’t negotiated pay at the outset of their careers could leave at least $1 to $1.5 million in salary on the table. That doesn’t count the benefits that also accompany higher salaries.
A third concern was maintaining work-life balance. We asked our female colleagues to write down two or three things that would provide better balance in their lives, such as a more flexible schedule in order to get kids off to school in the morning or an additional work-from-home day each week.
In another exercise, we asked attendees to answer two questions on sticky notes that could be displayed for the group to view. These questions were: What can you offer (in the way of mentoring)? What do you need (from a mentor)? The purpose was to help match female mentees with mentors. Also, areas of particular concern were compiled and reviewed to be addressed as a whole.
Below is a list of topics that may be useful for others in the financial industry to jump start meetings on retaining female employees. For starters, pick two or three of the most important issues, hold a monthly meeting to keep the momentum going and please share solutions that work well in your company.
Please share what your firm is doing to retain the valuable women in your company. Let’s start a discussion and keep our diversity in Financial Services!