Both women and men need to get involved in advancing women in the capital markets industry, says a new report.

Women in Capital Markets and Catalyst, an organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women, has released Women and Men in Canadian Capital Markets: An Action Plan for Gender Diversity.

“Good intentions are there; however, creating a breakthrough requires commitment to change,” says Deborah Gillis, Senior Vice President, Membership & Global Operations, Catalyst. These gaps are “costing Canadian capital markets the ability to genuinely attract, advance, and hold on to the most talented women.”

The guide explains why gender diversity is key to effective organizations, and investigates why the proportion of women in the capital markets industry is still dismally low, with almost no improvement in the last decade.

Even though women account for 62% of workers in the financial services industry, only 17% of vice presidents and directors, and 10% of managing directors, are women.

The report then proposes eight ways companies can ensure more women reach the top of those organizations.

Why the lack of women?

According to Catalyst’s research, the four things keeping women out of this career path are:

  • Not knowing about capital markets as a career path early on;
  • The industry’s image as a “boorish male culture;”
  • A recruitment process that relies on informal networking and ill-defined criteria; and
  • Assumptions that women are not committed to long-term careers within the industry.

Managers often equate being at the office with productivity, rather than being open to flexible work arrangements. Such a culture creates unrealistic expectations which keep some talented, high-performing women from staying in the industry.

Women also have more trouble than men finding mentors and sponsors to help them advance through their careers.

“Until the banks and firms make a genuine strategic and cultural shift, I’m afraid our numbers from top to bottom will continue to languish,” says Fell.

The plan offers several strategies for industry leaders to implement change:

  1. Promote the link between gender diversity and better staff retention and company profitability.
  2. Sponsor high-potential women.
  3. Invite men at all levels to participate. Their perspectives are crucial for lasting success.
  4. Be scrupulous and intentional when it’s time to hire and promote staff or delegate assignments. This reduces the risk for unconscious stereotyping.
  5. Be a mentor.
  6. Promote the idea of a career in capital markets to women through media, university recruitment, and professional networks.
  7. Encourage fellow leaders to value results more than long hours: focus on building a team that’s productive and efficient.
  8. Create a policy to stay connected with women on career breaks and develop ways for them to re-enter the industry; otherwise, the industry will lose top talent.