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Women Are At the Pinnacle of the Financial World…

...– But Have a Ways to Go

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Furthermore, a recent survey from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants indicates that women are still underrepresented in senior management in accounting firms. Specifically, while 44 percent of accountants at CPA firms surveyed are women, only 19 percent of partners are women. This is a marked drop of 21 percent from the 2011 survey results.

It seems as though women at the very top end of the bell curve are able to break through the glass ceiling that Muriel Siebert first cracked in the 1960s and 70s. But why don’t women seem to be firing on all cylinders when it comes to being fully represented among industry leadership mid-career?

I’m going to throw out some possible factors as food for thought – without backing any of them. Instead, I’ll leave to readers to chew on them and accept or reject these hypotheses:

  1. Women tend to take more time for family and child-rearing, biasing purely financial or quantitative measures like AUM or client acquisition towards men.
  2. Women tend to be more risk-averse than men – resulting in more women in the middle of the bell curve but leaving the left and right ends of the distribution to mostly men.
  3. Women may prefer team-oriented structures to competitive ones, while top rank high profile positions tend to go to more competitive pressures.
  4. Ambitious women may tend to self-select to other professions outside of the financial services arena.
  5. Women get led on more by wealthy prospects who simply enjoy their company but do not become clients, leading them to waste time and appointments, where men ‘ask for the sale,’ get it, and get out.
  6. Wealthy clients – the kind that build a financial services business fast, simply tend to prefer to send their business to men.
  7. There is active discrimination in the industry, still, despite the recent lawsuits and settlements, that keeps women in the lower to middle ranks of the profession.
  8. Mentorship and leadership development programs for women are inadequate.
  9. Women tend to do better in financial services if they start in law, academia or government and then switch over at more senior career levels, as Yellen, Lagard and Ressel did. Senequier also didn’t rise to prominence in financial services, either. She came over to Ardian from Hewlett Packard.

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