Guest Contributer: Marianne Brown, CEO, Omgeo
There have been several articles recently that have detailed the “exodus” of women from Wall Street. These articles stem from a statistic reported by the Bureau of Labor that “in the past 10 years, 141,000 women, 2.6% of female workers in finance, disappeared from the industry, while the ranks of men in the industry grew by 389,000, or 9.6%.” The Wall Street Journal recently ran an interview with Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Work-Life Policy on the matter (http://tiny.cc/6o7uc). The article points out that it isn’t only work pressure, unpredictability, and intense competition that deters women from long term careers on Wall Street. Hewett suggested that women were heavily affected by how tarnished Wall Street’s reputation had become noting that “women seem to care a lot about the status, the integrity and the mission of their company.”
I would have to agree that the integrity and mission of a company is both important and worth fighting for, and I hope that women won’t abandon the industry wholesale because of a few bad apples. I think it’s certainly worth noting that while Wall Street institutions have been losing women, Wall Street regulators seem to be picking up some great talent. The SEC and the FDIC are both run by women, and now there’s news that Elizabeth Warren may head the new Consumer Protection Agency (http://tiny.cc/e70bm). Working for a Wall Street regulator has a different set of challenges, and benefits, than financial services institutions. However, there is a strong need for talent right now, and women who are looking for work might do well to consider this option.
What concerns me the most in this shake up, is that those that are sticking it out on Wall Street are now less supported, as some of those departures have been by senior women who were great mentors. That said, all is not lost for the women who remain. The Journal article notes that there are still a number of programs to attract and retain women. In addition, there are an increasing number of resources for women in every section of the industry. Deutsche Bank’s yearly Women on Wall Street conference, 85 Broads, The Glass Hammer, and 100 Women in Hedge Funds all provide networking events for women working in financial services.
My recommendations for those that are sticking with Wall Street, but looking for support is– keep persevering. Networking within and outside of your own company is certainly advisable, but I also recommend finding a mentor. If your organization seems to have a dearth of senior women, find one in a similar organization. Another great option that I have been exploring recently is working with non-profits and corporate boards. These organizations often look for outside advisors, and your experience in financial services can sometimes be a real asset. Wall Street is changing, but I think when it all shakes out, women will continue to have a strong influence on its direction, and integrity.