In the latest episode of the ‘Ganado Meets Finance’ podcast, Stephanie Farrugia, senior associate at Ganado Advocates, speaks with Paulianne Nwoko, managing director of Apex Fund Services Ltd, on the representation of women in finance.

In the world of finance, women are still largely outnumbered by men, especially in executive roles. Yet studies and statistics in this area continue to recognise the value which women contribute to the industry, even in leadership roles.

Looking back at the progression of her career so far and always having formed part of the industry Paulianne Nwoko mentions the importance of discussing the involvement of women in the finance industry. She recognises the change that has taken place over the years but highlights that a gap remains in this area. She says that women bring diversity in thought and are good leaders but by often setting women aside, and not providing the right tools to help them advance in their careers, the industry is simply missing out on talent.

Starting in parity

In the finance industry, women and men generally start at parity, but as careers progress, women tend to be left behind. This may be due to several factors. Nwoko says it is relevant to look back at the role of women in society and despite there having been an improvement, there is still much to be done to break the bias against the involvement of women in senior roles.

Sustainability and gender

The EU is pushing change through the sustainability agenda and related regulation, yet it seems that focus seems to always gravitate towards environmental factors, pushing gender issues to the bottom of the agenda, Nwoko says. Aside from the regulatory push, the interest of shareholders and institutional investors to bring about change in this area,remains important.

The role of the employer

The employer and those in leadership roles naturally play a large part in ensuring gender diversity at the workplace and even in senior roles. Both Farrugia and Nwoko recognise the various initiatives at their workplaces to encourage and facilitate the progression of women in their careers. Nwoko speaks about Apex’s Women Accelerator Programme, which provides tools such as coaching and mentoring, and provides a platform to discuss gender diversity at the workplace.

Involving men in the discussion

The underrepresentation of women in senior roles is often viewed as a women’s issue. The attribution of this problem to women only is contributing to the main problem, Farrugia and Nwoko say.

They note that a step in the right direction would be to involve men in the discussion and also to remove the stigma around the involvement of men in daily family life.

Nwoko says that offering women flexibility at work, especially mothers, is helpful, but can be more effective if the other parent were afforded similar flexibility.

What have we learnt from the pandemic?

Nwoko and Farrugia say that last few years have proven that when we push ourselves to implement certain measures, we can bring about effective change. With most of the working population having been forced into remote working over the past years and with the inevitable involvement of both parents in daily family life during the pandemic, it has become evident that remote working does work for many and that having both parents involved equally, benefits everyone.

Conclusion: the importance of role models

The lack of role models for young women remains an issue and without more women in senior roles paving the way, young women may find it more challenging to progress. Nwoko recognises the importance of this and also shares her advice on how women can remain focussed on progression.

Nwoko mentions that aside from working hard, it is key to understand that it is indeed possible for women to excel in more than one role. She also advises women to look out for those organisations that give importance to gender diversity issues and take up any mentorship opportunities.

Aside from the importance of keeping up the discussion and focus on gender diversity at the workplace, Nwoko concluded that career progression, even all the way up to senior and leadership roles, is indeed achievable if women are given the adequate support.

 

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