Women make little progress in industry

By Deanne Gage | June 23, 2009 | Last updated on June 23, 2009
3 min read

Women in financial services may have come a long way but not far enough. Despite small gains in the banking industry, women in capital markets have made virtually no progress in the last eight years, according to a new study released Monday.

The study, called Catalyst’s Report to Women in Capital Markets, found 39% of all capital markets positions are held by women — a number that has not changed since 2002. Women held 17% of “line” positions, positions considered important to advancing to senior levels, and this percentage has not changed since 2000, said Deborah Gillis, vice-president, North America, at Catalyst. “You can see why progress is not a word I would use to describe women in capital markets,” she said.

There were some minor bright spots: The number of women investment advisors increased a percentage point (16% from 15%) over the last eight years. And women who hold a vice-president title increased from 14% to 16% between 2000 and 2008.

Despite the disappointing numbers, Gillis noted one silver lining given today’s economic downturn. “Organizations are looking at turning crisis into opportunity. They are considering new strategies, and new ways of looking at business and at the widest range of talent in the marketplace — men and women — to drive the innovation that will lead to recovery and ultimately to growth,” she said.

Part of the issue, however, is creating more awareness about the opportunities for women in capital markets, said Lynn Kennedy, managing director, foreign exchange, at BMO Capital Markets. “These are disappointing results but they don’t surprise me,” she said. Kennedy, along with Michelle Khalli and Anne Haldimand, was part of a panel discussing the study’s findings.

“We need to try and plant the seed very early by going into the high schools,” Kennedy suggested. “The pool [of women] is smaller but once we do attract more women, our job is to keep them there, offer training and tools.”

Khalli, managing director, equity capital markets at CIBC World Markets Inc., acknowledged that capital markets are a male-dominated industry but noted things are improving, albeit slowly. “I see some women who are coming up [the ranks] and you know they are going to go far. But we have to work on all aspects of the pipeline so [women] can grow our numbers.” That means working on retaining these women “as they go through their careers.”

It also means firms need senior executives passionate about the issue. “It’s important to have a champion say, ‘This is important to me personally, professionally and this is important to the firm,'” she said.

The panel were asked how having children affects a woman’s career prospects. Kennedy acknowledged men may often have a spouse at home with the kids while it’s more difficult for women juggling both work and being the primary caregiver when it comes to family responsibilities.

From Khalli’s personal perspective, she said it helps having “a husband who is a partner, her parents living nearby and a killer nanny.” She attributes her own success in the industry to the fact that she loves what she does. “I enjoy my job and have a passion for it,” she said. “Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you grow.

She also noted that capital markets is a results and numbers-driven industry, if you produce, “many different leadership styles are acceptable.”

Haldimand, managing director, money market trading at TD Securities, noted that TD has “informal flexibility” and job sharing opportunities to accommodate conflicts that can arise.

The study was commissioned by Women in Capital Markets and is the fourth in a series of reports examining the representation of women in the Canadian capital markets industry.


Deanne Gage