Yesterday we celebrated International Women’s Day, a day where we reflect on women’s achievements and advancements today and throughout history.
To mark the occasion, I had the honor of speaking on a panel of women at my Alma Mater, Simon Fraser University (SFU). The panel discussion dealt with ways women can thrive in male-dominated industries. I was humbled to be among some amazing women from diverse backgrounds. All offered great advice on how women can break into male-dominated fields and ultimately enjoy successful careers.
I personally have a good deal of experience in carving out my own career niche in the “boys club” that is Finance. I’ve worked at FINCAD for seven years and presently, have climbed the rank to my current position as Head of Professional Services. I have to say that as an employer, FINCAD is very fair and open-minded to the importance of diversity in the workplace.
How did I end up here? I always had a natural inclination for mathematics in school. So, after graduating with a general business degree, I decided to go back and further my education, earning my Master of Financial Risk Management degree at SFU. This turned out to be a great decision for me, as there are enormous opportunities available in the financial sector.
I have found both upsides and challenges to being a woman working in this field. For instance, when I go on a client or prospect call, I will often be the only woman in the room. At times, earlier in my career this may have made me feel slightly awkward. However, today I am accustomed to it, and it really does not bother me. I’ve also had a couple of experiences with senior-level decision makers at other companies where I felt like, simply because I’m a woman, I had to work a little harder to earn their respect.
On the flipside, if I visit a client where there is a woman working in a decision-making role, my gender can be a feather in my cap—a kind of unspoken comradery. Or there have even been some male prospects I’ve worked with that will be less tough on me (because I am a woman) than they are on my male team members.
But overall, I feel employers are much more aware nowadays about being inclusive. In fact, in my experience, many hiring managers in the financial field are keenly aware of the imbalance in the number of male versus female employees. So often they will play closer attention to the resumes of qualified female candidates, rather than just pass them over, which I imagine happened a good deal in the past. I know when I’m tasked with bringing on new staff at FINCAD, I certainly am on the lookout for qualified female staff to join our team.
While, as a gender, we have made tremendous strides, particularly in the last few decades, it’s safe to say there is always more work that can be done. One way that FINCAD is working to level some of the gender imbalance is with our annual Women in Finance scholarship. Each year FINCAD awards one qualified women a scholarship of $20,000 to put towards pursuing a graduate level degree in finance or risk management. This is a program that our CEO and Founder, Bob Park started several years ago, and one he is very proud of.
Last year’s scholarship winner, Monica Carrasco, had this to say, “My home country of Bolivia is not a wealthy nation with an abundance of opportunity. I realized early on that dedicating myself to learning and receiving a quality education were factors that would enable me to pursue my dreams and really be anything I wanted to be—despite my humble beginnings.” Once Monica completes her education, she aspires to attain a leadership position in a financial institution based in Bolivia.
I’ll leave you with these parting words –if you want it, you can achieve it. If you are a woman interested in forging a career in Finance, work hard and take any and all opportunities that come your way to learn and expand your skillset. That’s what I did, and it worked out for me.
If you or someone you know are interested in applying for this year’s FINCAD Women in Finance Scholarship opportunity, check back with our official scholarship page in Spring 2020.