Our role in the workplace should also be that of mentors so that young women interested in pursuing financial careers feel supported to break stereotypes and eliminate barriers.
Author: Pamela López, Head of Finance at Reservamos.
Throughout my professional life, I have wondered, how can I address the challenges I face as a woman to have a successful career. To be honest, I still don’t have a clear answer, but over time I have come to understand that it is a balancing act.
Today, despite the times we live in, it seems that gender still determines lower chances of success for a woman; we have been underrepresented and limited for a long time. Of course, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of diversity in the workplace, and the financial sector is no exception, but we still have significant challenges to overcome.
Women and Finance
According to a 2021 report by consulting firm Spencer Stuart, in Mexico, the percentage of women CFOs in companies on the Mexican Stock Exchange (BMV) index is 10%, while in Latin America, it is 12%.
The above does not detract from the impact we have on the financial sector. As women, we play a fundamental role, providing unique perspectives and experiences that can lead to greater innovation and success in problem-solving, more efficiently. By having a diverse team, it is feasible to propose innovative ideas and solutions, which ultimately drive business growth and success. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), if the gender gap in labor force participation rates in Latin America and the Caribbean were closed, the region’s GDP could increase by 16%, equivalent to $1.7 billion.
It doesn’t sound too bad, but how can we get to that reality? Our role in the workplace should also be that of mentors, so that young women interested in pursuing financial careers feel supported to break stereotypes and eliminate barriers.
It is vital not to lose sight that there are still many challenges to face in the industry, including underrepresentation in leadership positions, the gender pay gap, as well as the lack of balance between work and daily life.
Women, not only in the financial sector, are often paid less than their male counterparts, even when they have the same level of education and experience. This can make it difficult to achieve financial independence and directly contributes to the lack of diversity in senior leadership positions. The gender pay gap on average worldwide is 23%, while in Mexico, it exceeds 34%, according to reports by IMCO and Inmujeres.
The long hours and demanding nature of the industry make it difficult to balance our careers with our personal life. This can be particularly challenging for women, who often take on greater responsibility for caring for children or elderly relatives at home. Addressing these challenges is crucial to ensuring that the financial sector is diverse, inclusive, and reflects demographic needs.
Women, Technology, and Development
Technology is transforming the market in many ways, from the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to blockchain and digital currencies. These advances are changing the way the customer interacts and risk management operations.
The rapid evolution of the market demands that we adopt new skills, but also create the necessary mechanisms for technology to be a driver, not an obstacle, to women’s professional development. In this sense, women in financial leadership positions must lead the way in adopting digital platforms and services, exploring their potential to shape a more inclusive future for the financial sector, and accelerating positive change among customers, employees, and shareholders alike.
For all women pursuing a career in finance, I share some suggestions to develop and strengthen their skills and competencies:
- Invest in professional development opportunities. Attending conferences, workshops, and training sessions can help stay up to date with emerging trends and best practices in finance and accounting. Continuous learning helps us bridge gaps and provides us with communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills.
- Seek mentorship from experienced executives who can provide guidance and support as they advance in their careers. Mentors can also offer information on the skills and competencies needed to succeed in the CFO role.
- Financial directors must create networks of peers and colleagues who can provide support and share knowledge and best practices. Networking events, professional organizations, and social media platforms can be excellent sources of connections and support.
- Take on new challenges and opportunities. Gradually assume new projects or roles that require us to extend beyond our comfort zone to develop and strengthen skills and achieve greater leadership.
Undoubtedly, the challenges for women remain significant. Therefore, it is essential to continue working as a team to help more women develop their skills, establish support and mentorship networks, and not fear new challenges and constant learning. Only in this way can we not only achieve our professional success but also drive the economy of our countries.