Spotlight on Women in Finance: Understanding the Gender Gap

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We spoke with five women in finance to understand their achievements, challenges, and thoughts on the gender disparity in the field.

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Priyaanka Arora
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Francesca D'Arcy-Orga
March 8, 2023

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Spotlight on Women in Finance: Understanding the Gender Gap


International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated with a new theme each year.

This year, the theme is Embrace Equity. With more awareness than ever before around the need for equitable opportunities for all people from diverse backgrounds, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to discuss equity.

Women hold only 30% of leadership roles in finance, according to the Global Gender Gap Report by World Economic Forum. Reasons range from lack of flexible work environments to hesitancy in promoting women (particularly women of color) to leadership roles.

We had the opportunity to talk with women in different stages of their careers, on what it’s like to be a woman in finance. We talked through their role models, passions, challenges, and thoughts on how to address the finance gender gap.

Read along as we share the stories of these incredible women in finance.

What causes the gender gap in finance?

“When we’re trying to bridge or break that glass ceiling, we tend to have to work a lot harder than our counterparts just to get a seat at that table.” - Nadia Dessouki, Chief Sales Officer at Relanto.

Women in finance have consistently been undervalued and overlooked for promotions and opportunities to work in leadership roles. Throughout history, women have had to push extra hard—proving themselves time and time again before finally being allowed to lead.

As stated in a study by McKinsey,

“Women of color are particularly disadvantaged: they are 34 percent less likely to make their first promotion than men in financial services.”

Even then, women face an uphill battle in the workforce when demonstrating their leadership skills as they are often mislabeled as "aggressive". The gender disparity also stems from an ongoing shortage of female representation in the industry:

“When I was studying, I really was thinking that finance was for men!” - Lisa Descours, FP&A Analyst at Pigment

How can finance be more inclusive?

Women are currently underrepresented in executive roles, and often lack access to the same resources, mentorship opportunities, and networks that their male counterparts have.

So what needs to change? Our interviewees had a few powerful ideas:

“Everyone needs to do more at their level, somehow.” - Thuy-Vy Mai, Head of Strategic Finance at Pigment
“Offer all-gender events to educate women and even men on the existing unconscious bias and how to best approach that in a workplace setting.” - Linh Nguyen, Associate, Transaction Execution Services at Accordion
“The workplace culture needs to be more inclusive and supportive of women, especially in leadership roles. Men should be educated in gender bias.” - Jackie Mazon, Finance Manager at Novo

More education and resources around the negative impact of a gender gap and unconscious bias seems to be the way to reduce gender disparity in the long run.

To round it off, Thuy-Vy Mai, Head of Strategic Finance at Pigment, shares compelling advice for women considering a career in finance:

“Nothing beats experience. You need to take a leap and try things, figure out if this is for you or not.”

We’re incredibly proud to have had the opportunity to learn about these five incredible women in finance. Watch the video for more snippets from the interviews, and read on to learn more about equity in the workplace.

What does equity mean for women in the workplace?

Equity in the workplace means achieving a sense of balance and fairness within an organization. 

It means that women feel supported and respected to embrace their talents, and can reach for their goals with equitable access to resources as their male counterparts.

Equity in the workplace

Working towards equity creates an environment where employees are encouraged, enabled and empowered; leading to higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, productivity and morale.

Achieving true equity requires dedication from all parties involved—managers, employers, colleagues, peers—to ensure a workplace where everyone feels comfortable bringing their true selves to work everyday.

While it may be hard work initially, the benefits are clear: embracing equity gives everyone the opportunity to succeed no matter their gender or background.

What is the difference between equity and equality?

Equality is a state where everyone has the same rights, opportunities, and access to resources. On the other hand, equity means fairness and justice in the distribution of resources and opportunities.

Equity also involves a commitment to making sure disadvantaged individuals have equal access to resources and are provided with adequate opportunities for career development or empowerment.

It is critical for employers to bridge any existing gaps between groups of employees for a steady path towards fairness and equity in the workplace.

Learn more about Pigment’s work culture and efforts to create a more inclusive workplace.

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