27 September 2019
As a business development consultant who works remotely, I spend the majority of my time working at a modern and luxurious office space which feels more like a private members’ club than a co-working environment. With its Wabi Sabi-decor, a ton of light, spacious interior, and delicious snacks, it is working heaven. When I sit here in between my meetings, writing emails, doing copyediting and outreach, or speaking with my coworkers in London and global CEO clients, I walk around a lot. I walk over to the snack and coffee area (at least five million times a day!), sometimes I make calls from the phone booth, or sit in the lounge area with my laptop. I say ‘hi’ to everyone, and I truly love the people who work here: receptionists, baristas, and space managers. I’m even friends with other teams who rent this space, like tech startups and financial institutions.
“Wow, your work environment sounds ideal,” you might be thinking. And I wholeheartedly agree. I am often filled with an enormous amount of gratitude for doing what I love in a modern space of peace and quiet.
There is only one problem with this picture: not enough women.
As I’m sitting in the room on the eighth floor on this late September afternoon, there are ten people here: eight men, and two women (including myself). That is a ratio of 80% to 20%. One fourth! And worse, more often than not, I’m the only woman on the floor. I’ve noticed that there are tech companies whose teams of 20 or so people are entirely men! And that’s just some office suites in my co-working space. What about boardrooms, coding comanies, finance firms? What about women leaders, what ratio have we got there?
Why is it that at the end of the quarter of the 21st Century, when it comes to the leadership positions, women are still largely underpopulated? According to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, “Female talent remains one of the most underutilized business resources.” In some industries, like insurance, investing, accounting, and banking, this is especially clear. Forbes reports that, “In finance, as career level rises, female representation declines.” Although 46 percent of financial services employees are women, at the executive level, it’s only 15 percent. In these industries, most men have traditionally dominated because they got into them through nepotism of their fathers, uncles, or fraternity brothers. Women have a hard time breaking in because there have never been that many women in such industries anyway. But what if we used the gender gap in finance as an opportunity instead of a challenge? We, women, are great about connecting the dots, after all.
If I may generalise, women have the ability to see the big picture, adding what’s needed to complete a given task. Women will get their hands dirty at projects which men are too busy to do themselves because they are “building their empire” (read: ego). Perhaps, however, men are simply not necessarily that good at it, which is totally fine. It’s impossible to be good at everything. The thing is, though, that women have the humility to admit it. I dare to argue that women are creating the future of finance because women are not afraid to learn. A financial professional (like any other professional for that matter) should never stop learning. Moreover, women in finance are not solely interested in money. Whether it’s about helping clients build their legacy, or figuring out the best option in the financial planning scheme, focusing on the financial education, or suggesting the right charitable foundation, finance is about making a difference, and women do make that difference because women care.
Who would have thought that in the last 50 years, millions of people who were once dependent on men have been able to earn their independence?! We tend to forget that women had to fight for their right to earn a living. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution when women started to gradually enter the workforce, but even then they had to give up their jobs after WW2 for returning veterans. They did, however, remain in the workforce in the so-called “feminine occupations,” such as office work, retail sales, nursing, and teaching.
There has been a huge culture change and tremendous freedom in the workforce, and subsequently, in workplaces, for women. It is unbelievable that a hundred years ago no woman would have been seen in the political arena, running her own business, or, dare I say it, leading and commanding a man. Thanks to our humility, intelligence, resilience, flexibility, and determination, we have slowly infiltrated the men’s world, filling in the existing gaps. Still, we have such a long way to go. Women make up about 14% of the executive positions among Fortune 500 companies. Isn’t it funny that the gender fluidity, merging and blurring the gender stereotypes, claiming that gender is passe, so popular among Generation Z, yet we shockingly deal with a vast majority of dudes working in the business? Such long ways to go. And don’t get me started on the pay gap. The 1964 Civil Rights Act boosted opened more doors for women in the workplace, however, the battle continues as today, women make up 47 per cent of the labor force.
Disclaimer: More than 50% of the Right Angles team consists of women.