How to get ahead as a woman in finance

Women in Banking and Finance AwardsFinance has always been perceived as a very male dominated field, when you discuss banking people always picture the ‘boy’s club’ of old. 

Thankfully, like engineering, science and many other industries, this is no longer the case.  I have always found finance to be a really diverse mix of people, however, sadly there is still a glass ceiling and the majority of senior personnel are still male.

As Head of Compliance, I do often get asked how difficult it was to progress, as a woman and a mother.

Put in the leg work

One of the things I often hear is ‘I’m not paid enough to do that’, maybe not but do the work and one day you will be.  Yes, it can be frustrating to do work above your pay grade and feel like you are not given recognition, however, learning the role of a senior colleague is invaluable.  It seems so inconceivable to work harder than your salary warrants yet those same people will pay for qualifications and external training.  There is no greater experience than on the job training.

Create your own opportunities

Thinking ‘what’s in it for me?’ is a negative way to approach your career, take any additional work or responsibility offered.  Instead of focussing on salary as a measure of your value, focus on becoming invaluable.

Share your knowledge and experience

You are not in a competition, do not be scared to share your insights and experience.  People will respect you for this and appreciate your support, in return they will share with you.  People are the key to expanding your knowledge and by sharing your expertise you become the ‘go-to’ person for queries, which is great at raising your profile.

Don’t expect to walk in at the top

Everybody must work their way up.  Proving yourself through hard work will gain respect from your peers and senior colleagues.  Do not overplay your hand and pretend to know things you don’t, be willing to learn instead.  If you claim to be an expert in an area you are not, this will be obvious very quickly and will undermine the genuine attributes you have.

You don’t need to justify yourself

If you have children there is no need to constantly reassure your colleagues that this won’t affect your job, having a family can be a big part of who you are.  Similarly, if you do not have a family, you do not ever need to explain your life choices to people.  Unless it impacts on your work, your personal circumstances are irrelevant to your career.

You are a woman – be proud!

Stop trying to be one of the boys!  Women often feel forced to be secretive about their family responsibilities, this is your strength not your weakness.  Men and women typically have different skills and approaches towards problem solving, this is why we need a diverse workforce.  Be good at what you do and just be yourself, there is no need to fit in.  Standing out is what makes each of us exceptional!

Francesca DowlingAbout the author

Francesca Dowling is the Head of Compliance at banking app, Amaiz ( She has over 20 years’ experience of working in the regulatory field.




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