Female representation in a male dominated industry
With a degree in modern languages, a career in the city wasn’t always an obvious choice for me. But with my finals fast approaching some years ago, the reality of life after university loomed, so I started going to milk-round events alongside most other near-graduates to explore our options.
At the time, Barclays was looking for graduates with a background in languages to join its international private bank – I was drawn to the idea of being able to use my language and relationship skills, and learn how to apply them to the financial industry.
With an arts background, my first focus was on building out my technical knowledge, so for many years I worked in specialist roles to build my expertise in order to be less reliant on others.
It’s only been relatively recently that I’ve developed into more generalist relationship management roles, which plays into what I enjoy the most – understanding people and what makes them tick. My confidence and enjoyment in this area have grown further as I’ve taken on more of a leadership role.
While the lack of female representation in pitch meetings was obvious, I often found that being the only woman allowed me to stand out and be more memorable, as long as I was able to demonstrate my expertise. That being said, it wasn’t always smooth sailing and I definitely encountered certain behaviours and comments purely because I was a woman. Perhaps surprisingly, it could quite often be women who were not that supportive while some of my best sponsors have been men.
In my 25 years in the industry, things have changed, but there is certainly more that we can do. Our clients now come from a myriad of backgrounds and make money in countless different ways. As an industry, it is vital that we reflect the diversity of the clients that we serve in wealth management. We need women from all walks of life and at different stages in their careers to build teams that our clients can relate to – multi-generational and diverse.
With its reputation as a male-dominated industry, wealth management might not appear to be the most obvious career route for women. But this reputation is evolving, as more women recognise the opportunity to transfer their skills, be entrepreneurial and build their business around their own interests and families – something that we should celebrate much more. It’s important to recognise that a career isn’t always a linear path, rather it can often resemble a jungle gym, so you have to be creative and grab opportunities when they come your way.
Despite some earlier experiences to the contrary, I’ve found women are often fantastic at wanting to support each other, but you have to be prepared to use your network, ask for help and speak up – something I wish I had realised earlier in my career and am passionate about passing on to other women in the industry.
MD and Head of Relationship Management at RBC Wealth Management
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