The changing landscape for women in finance

By Rhiannon Carpio, commercial partnerships manager at Merchant Money

Despite my first few years in finance being headed up by a strong female MD and senior management team, by the time I had moved into business development this didn’t translate to the wider market.

Out of 400+ brokers in 2008 less than a handful were women. As I progressed, fewer and fewer of my co-workers were female. The challenge is not making finance more attractive at the start of your career – it is creating an environment for growth. It’s changing cultures so that women are not systematically at a disadvantage after having children or the further up the ladder they go.

There should be a shift in the focus of conversations around increasing female diversity in finance, away from barriers to entry. Women drivers are no different from men, some seeking competitive roles in dynamic environments and others looking for a steadier pace.

Interestingly, the pay gap in the UK becomes more pronounced from age 40 and in 2015 the Equality and Human Rights Commission estimated that around 54,000 new mothers lose their jobs across Britain every year – almost twice the number identified in similar research undertaken in 2005. On a basic level this shows the difficulties that arise when we become caregivers – for children, for elderly parents, for anyone within our units that need support. The truth is that performance and prospects are affected by any period of time away from your career. What’s needed is for employers to be driving a societal change that sees men and women as equal caregivers.

On a day-to-day basis women have a greater tendency to apologise and qualify more than men do. We say ‘I’m sorry to bother you’ when the bothering is an essential part of your job. Often I see women saying things as they are and then qualifying the statement, more so than male colleagues. We offer more justifications, more alternatives. My advice to younger women would be: stop apologising for doing your job well.

Fortunately, at Merchant Money, we have a strong female representation throughout the company. Our finance and marketing directors are both talented, smart women who excel in their positions. We have strong leadership and a culture where every member of the team, male or female, is totally committed to excellence. There is no difference between how the women in the team are treated, no disparaging comments, dismissiveness or ‘boys club’ where deals are done at events where women are not made particularly welcome. There is no point having equal representation if 50% of your team have their creativity and autonomy dampened on account of gender.

Merchant Money is profitable with a growing book and well positioned for strong, sustainable growth – not because we have women at the top but because the whole workforce, regardless of gender, operates at their full potential. It’s what every company should be aiming for.