Women Move into Finance Careers

Women Move into Finance Careers

Don't look now, but the old boys of finance have been slowly taking down their "no girls allowed" signs from their clubhouse doors. Women are making inroads into a field often associated with macho behavior and are doing so across a range of specific jobs, from sales to trading to administration.

"Yes, I put up with a lot of ribbing from the fellas," says Molly Hunter, CFA, referring to her male colleagues at a major stock brokerage firm. "But I also have earned their respect." In the mid-'90s, she joined the growing ranks of women in the field of securities sales and has excelled. She took the three-year self-study chartered financial analyst course and passed all the tests the first time around.

"More importantly though, I have earned the respect of clients and prospects," says Hunter. She claims that about half of her clients are male and her gender has not been an impediment. "They are comfortable with me. Maybe they have fewer male ego hang-ups talking to me than they would if they were working with a male financial advisor."

Hunter chalks up her success to staying focused on helping the client and keeping the big picture in mind. She believes she brings an element to the sales process that the fellas can't -- namely, a woman's perspective on investing.

"I remind these guys that their wives are likely to outlive them, and they must make sure to provide for that eventuality," she continues. "I come off as the voice of reason. It's sort of like those high tech military fighter jets that use a woman's voice to tell the pilots what to do." Hunter adds that with so many more households being headed by single women, "they are bound to be looking for someone they can talk to -- not someone who will patronize them."

Different Track

Julie Black (not her real name) has taken a different approach to the field of finance. She runs the entire bond-trading desk for a major Wall Street firm. She started as a junior trading assistant in the mid-'80s with a finance degree from a state university, and now she's the boss.

"I wouldn't say they view me as one of the guys," she admits. "But they know I have earned my stripes here, and I get their respect for that. What counts is how well you do your job, not what school you came from."

Trading desks have a reputation for sophomoric behavior from males. "I am not above a little joking around myself," says Black, who has been known to unscrew the wheels from other traders' chairs. Still, the guys know where to draw the line and realize she is signing their paychecks.

"I think society has simply changed to the point where new workers coming into the world of finance do not find it surprising to find a woman in charge," says Black. She readily admits that it wasn't that way when she started. But in another 20 years, the entire workforce will have grown up with this notion. And that will lead to even more opportunities for women in the field.

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