How women in financial services can thrive under lockdown

Tracey Davies, President, Money20/20

It’s official: COVID-19 is rolling back decades of progress for women in the workplace, as 54% of initial coronavirus-related job losses were from women, according to McKinsey & Co.

The existing challenge of balancing career and home life are amplified by the pressures of working from home (whilst teaching children and taking on even greater domestic duties) amid lockdown orders. The good work being done to empower women in financial services through mentorship, training and workplace inclusivity efforts have all helped, but a focused approach is needed to tackle these challenges.

Now more than ever, organisations supporting women in banking, payments and fintech need a ground-up approach to ensure every woman has the best chance to succeed. Women – and their managers – can harness the urgency of this moment to refocus on priorities and hone in on the effort that will help them grow their careers.

As a working mother and business leader, I know full well how difficult this can be. And having had the privilege to speak to many women on their journeys through our RiseUp programme, I’ve picked my top five thoughts for making the best of life under lockdown:

  1. Outcomes over availability: So often we have accepted the assumption that we have to be constantly available, responding to emails and messages whenever they come in or risk poor perception. The reality is that COVID has changed what should have changed a long time ago. Research shows that focused attention is a finite mental resource and women need to structure and embrace on and offline periods. A key to making this work is focusing your communication and to-do list on outcomes. In a time where interruptions can be requests from colleagues or shouts from children, clear priorities around the outcomes you will deliver gives you purpose and protection as you work.
  2. Network: Most of us feel isolated sitting at home day after day. Whether it’s the silent community of a train ride, chatter in the office kitchen or networking at events, the positive social aspect of career-building is harder than ever. Aim to make at least one active network building appointment each week, whether through LinkedIn or an online community. Being visible at work has long been a challenge for women, so especially now, it’s vital to connect with others experiencing similar situations as well as male allies to support you and each other.
  3. Learn: 2020 feels like a year where time stopped, but your career will continue. Make sure you find some way to learn and engage with new ideas. Whether through podcasts, books, industry journalism, or online video content, make sure you invest in your brain; it’s your most valuable asset. Take stock of your needs and your passions, and whether it’s a personal improvement book or an online course, keep sharpening your mind.
  4. Pay it forward: We all remember what it was like to start out and not know how to play the game. Young women today face an even harder challenge as they learn the ropes of professional development in a remote environment. Understandably, time is tight and energy low. But if and when you can, find time to reach out to young women in your company or your industry. A simple check-in and an opportunity for them to ask questions they would have normally asked in person can make a world of difference for them. It’s also an opportunity to remind yourself of your knowledge and talents as well.
  5. Me time: We all need to take care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. When everything feels chaotic, give yourself the gift of consistent exercise and good sleep. Working from home can create additional pressures from multitasking household and work demands, so remember to take 5-10 minute breaks regularly throughout the day to stay fresh and positive. You’ll be better for everyone, including yourself.

The financial industry has taken some very important steps towards becoming more gender-diverse in recent years, and there have been some very successful initiatives. There is an awareness and an acceptance that things need to change, which is a good start. The way we as an industry support women during this challenging time can set all of us to have a more inclusive and higher-performing industry when we recover. Let’s make the most of this time by empowering women to define their schedules and their needs while supporting them to build the networks and habits that will help them grow.

About the author

Tracey Davies is the President of Money20/20, the world’s leading event for the payments, fintech and financial services industry. She is in charge of driving the events global expansion and developing growth strategies for the business. Owned by Ascential PLC Money20/20 has editions in USA, Europe, Singapore and China.

Tracey has over 25 years’ experience in media, information, digital and events businesses. For the past 11 years, Tracey has been with Ascential PLC where she held a number of senior positions and developed an in-depth understanding of the global FinTech industry as well as the global retail sector and vendor ecosystem.

She is the founder of Rise Up. Rise up is an accelerator program for aspirant women in financial services across the globe to support and connect them all the way to the top.


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