Sometimes I just can’t keep my mouth shut.
Working in finance, I’m constantly surrounded by a majority of men. It’s not my ideal but it’s a fact of life.
But last week I couldn’t hold myself back. I opened a financial advice industry magazine and was confronted by what I can only describe as a sausage-fest.
It’s an ‘industry roundtable’ organised by a major life insurance company. Don’t be fooled by the two women in the photo; only one was actually allowed to be part of the roundtable. I assume the other was rounded up to give some gender balance to the pic. FFS.
So I got fired up and emailed the editor to complain about this. Something of a risky move, given I have to pitch stories to him occasionally. But hey, when the feminist fire is burning within you…
He was actually great and accepted that it’s not a good look, and as I suspected, it was the paying client who made the call. He said they normally have a minimum 30% females at their events. I’ll take him at his word.
Anyway, it got me thinking about my Fierce Girls. No wonder so many of us feel like finance isn’t our thing. No wonder we don’t feel inspired to work with investment professionals, when they are largely white guys in suits.
In case you (or the men’s rights activists, who take a strange interest in this blog) think I exaggerate, check this out.
I went to two of the ‘go-to’ finance industry sites to get a feel for the visuals. Here’s a panel of ‘investment experts’.
Oh hey there white guys in suits. But wait, maybe I’m just picking one example. Here’s another.
I mean, sure there are more white guys in suits, but maybe I am just being selective. Here’s one more.
Don’t be fooled by the glasses or the bald heads; these are all different people. The only diversity is the depth of their tan and the choice of whether to wear a tie.
I’m not blaming the publication completely for this. These are the spokespeople that the investment managers put forward.
Anyway, just to round out the example and test my hypothesis a little more, I jumped onto another industry website. Here’s a list of the ‘industry expert’ articles.
You guessed, more white guys! Surprising, I know.
But I’m not just here to throw shade at the ingrained gender imbalance of the finance sector. Although that is fun.
And I have nothing against white guys in suits personally. (Let’s be honest, they form a significant part of my dating portfolio).
What I want to say is this.
If you feel excluded from the financial world, IT’S ABSOLUTELY NOT YOUR FAULT.
If you feel like money, investments and finance are complicated concepts, remote from your life, IT’S TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE.
If you don’t identify with the blue-suited, white-shirted men of the finance industry, IT’S COMPLETELY REASONABLE.
There are definitely smart and talented women in finance. I know a bunch of them.
There are wonderful female advisers and money coaches like Vivian Goh.
There are boss-lady investment managers like Catherine Allfrey (ok I don’t know her personally but she works in my building and I secretly fangirl her from afar).
There are great female executives running super funds like Deanne Stewart (I fangirled her at an event once, in person).
There is even an amazing woman on the Reserve Bank of Australia Board! I’d go so far as to say I know Carol Schwartz, but I don’t think she knows me.
There just aren’t as many of these women as there are men. And it’s taking aaaaages to address the imbalance.
In the meantime, what can you do in the service of smashing the financial patriarchy?
- Search out like-minded women and their businesses. Women supporting women is obviously the best way to start. There are so many great women, so ask around or get Googling.
- Be conscious of the bias, then ignore it. Feel totally free to reject the notion that finance is a white guy’s game. It’s totally open and accessible to women who want to get acquainted. Resources like the one you are reading are evidence of that.
- Call out gender imbalance when you see it. Like I did to the poor editor mentioned above, if you see events or articles or even companies that are far too male, comment on it. We accept the behaviour we walk past. Also, feel free to take your business elsewhere.
And if all fails, just create your own squad, Taylor Swift, Bad Blood-style. That’s my master plan. Are you in?