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Surpassing the glass ceiling in financial services

Posted on Jun 28, 2017

There’s never been a better time than today to be a woman in financial services. The financial services industry, worth $2.5 trillion and the largest contributor to Australia’s economy (ahead of mining and manufacturing), is forecast to increase in value to $4 trillion by 2025.

As it is such a vital part of the Australian economy, we need to make sure that we have the best and the brightest minds. Clearly, we need to be drawing on 100 percent of the workforce and not limiting our top choices to 50 percent of the pool.

As females in funds management numbers remain low, women are being sought after to redress the gender imbalance. Diversity is seen as both right and desirable. There are great rewards for women in senior positions who stick it out.

All the big banks and accounting and professional services firms have targets for the ratios of women to men in leadership positions. However, it’s difficult to tell whether this is a quick fix or if there is something that needs to be addressed in a bigger way.

Men still hold most of Australia’s top leadership positions, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Throughout our society, only 17 percent of CEOs are women, and in the financial and insurance sector, this falls to just four percent. Perhaps more disturbing is that this industry has the highest gender pay gap of 30 percent.

So where are the opportunities?

The financial services industry is broadly made up of financial planning, funds management, insurance and superannuation. Many opportunities exist in these areas.

Financial planning largely focuses on relationships and understanding a client’s goals; superannuation manages the financial future of Australians; working in funds management provides the opportunity to employ stewardship and apply innovative thinking to help make real differences in the risks and rewards available to investors.

When employing graduates today, most firms will look at balancing gender numbers. There will also be opportunities in leadership roles as you progress. The most important thing for anyone starting out is to enter the industry. Once in you can move to the right roles to advance your career, learn more about specific areas and specialise if required. Further education may also play a part. Above all, knowledge is power in financial services: learn what roles exist, know what others are being paid, develop networks to help you navigate the industry and find roles in organisations that are most aligned to your talents and beliefs.


I am privileged to head up the Stella Network, a community that supports gender diversity in financial planning. The idea is simple: achieving gender diversity is better for everyone. It’s better for those working in the industry – making sure that all the best ideas are being heard – and better for clients who have a greater choice of planners to contact.

Around 2300 people have joined since its launch in October 2013. If you are passionate about the industry or looking to break in and help drive change, join the journey and connect with like-minded individuals; participate in discussion forums; meet at events and receive exposure to information that will be helpful in your career.

This article was written for The University of Sydney by Julia Newbould who is a leader at The Stella Network, BT Financial Group.