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International Women’s Day: An opportunity to celebrate and strive for further progress

By Keith Ford
5 minute read

International Women’s Day presents an opportunity to examine advancements in gender balance within financial services, as well as to identify areas that require further attention.

According to recent statistics, there has been an improvement in recent years regarding the representation of women in the financial services industry, as well as in the gender pay gap more broadly.

In February, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures showing that the national gender pay gap has dropped to its lowest level on record at 13.3 per cent.

However, just as the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) said there is more work to be done on the pay gap, a common refrain from women in financial services is that International Women’s Day (IWD) should be used to look at what can still be improved.

International Women’s Day holds a great significance for Anna Itsiopoulos, the chief operating officer at Praemium, who believes that the occasion urges us to prioritise gender parity and keeps us accountable for the advancements we make towards achieving it.

“Whilst great progress has been made, there is more work to do,” Ms Itsiopoulos said.

“Women are still underrepresented in financial services and IWD is an opportunity to acknowledge the contribution and skills women bring to create a more diverse workplace, which ultimately leads to better organisational outcomes”.

Continued progress Ms Itsiopoulos added, would benefit the industry overall.

Natalie Dolan, chief of staff at AZ NGA, emphasised the significance of commemorating women and recognising both the progress they have made and the long road that still lies ahead.

“IWD is a reminder that we all need to lift each other up and make space and time for women to become genuine equals and reach their true potential.”

Similarly, Patricia Ribeiro, co-chief investment officer at American Century Investments, said that while asset management has changed a lot, particularly in the last 15 years, a lot of work remains to be done. 

“To attract more women to asset management, the industry needs to accommodate what is important to women in the workplace: opportunities for advancement, role models, leaders that embrace diversity, benefits that are impactful to working women,” Ms Ribeiro said.

“International Women’s Day is important because it brings awareness to what still needs to be done. It shows how women are still not well represented in numbers as well as positions.”

Many of the women within financial services also noted that they see International Women’s Day as an opportunity to shed light on the avenues for enhancing opportunities for the upcoming generations.

Grady Wulff, market analyst at Bell Direct, said: “IWD is a symbol of the progress society has made towards gender equality. Working in a male-dominated industry, it is easy to fall into gender stereotypes and accept the boundaries traditionally placed on women in finance.

“IWD is an integral part of building a strong future for generations to come; a future where women are respected for their role not only in the workplace but in society as a whole. It is a day to remind women that settling for mediocre, or accepting gender stereotypes has no foundation in modern society.”

ClearView Group executive, general counsel and corporate, Judilyn Beaumont agreed, noting that women have come “a very long way” in terms of recognising women’s rights and supporting their advancement.

“It is important to celebrate that,” Ms Beaumont said.

“I didn’t have a lot financially growing up, but I was supported in the things that contribute significantly to advancement, for example, education and job opportunities at different levels. Unfortunately, there are still large groups of women within the community who don’t have the same opportunities.

“I have four daughters and one son, and I want them all to have the same level of opportunity. We must strive to ensure equal access to the education, knowledge, and tools necessary to keep progressing.”

Gillian Savage, chief executive officer of Acadian Asset Management, added that business leaders, in particular, need to play a lead role in breaking down the barriers that prevent women from reaching their full potential in the workplace.

“In the world of finance, there is a particular need to increase the representation of women in the industry. We actively seek out and encourage women to pursue careers in finance, as well as provide them with the support and resources they need to succeed,” Ms Savage said.

“By working together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable world where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of their gender,” she said. 

According to Kasey Patterson, the head of people and culture at Invest Blue, it is crucial to honour women in financial services, particularly since the industry is evolving to recognise the unique contributions of women.

“Over the last decade, the focus in financial services has shifted from product sales to a deeper client relationship and connection. As advisers, we need to understand our clients and what’s truly important to them,” Ms Patterson said.

“Women often bring to the table a different and complementary set of natural preferences, capabilities and way of thinking. That’s worth celebrating.”

From InvestorDaily, we wish all women a happy International Women’s Day!