Anniversaries have a way of reminding us about what and who we truly value in our lives. With International Women’s Day on the calendar this month, I’m reminded of colleagues who have influenced my own career. More important, I’m reminded of the crucial role that we all play as mentors, coaches and sponsors, helping to groom a diverse talent pool throughout our industry.
I stand on the shoulders of many special colleagues because of the wisdom and constructive feedback they have so generously offered over the years—whether I’ve wanted to hear it or not. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easier to see how a balance of constructive criticism, hard-earned praise, and a dose of reality shapes a career.
Career crossroads are especially key moments when a mentor is a critical sounding board, when a coach helps you move out of your comfort zone, and when a sponsor pounds the table to advocate on your behalf. These are different roles with different purposes, and each of us can benefit from these roles at different points in our careers.
But none of this happens in a vacuum. The way we interact as colleagues, the opportunities we see as team members, and the hiring choices we make as managers are influenced by corporate culture. Until recently, the gender gap in financial services had quietly reinforced a culture of exclusion, keeping career-advancement opportunities just beyond reach for many women. We’ve seen much progress in creating a more gender-balanced and inclusive environment, but there is still work to be done.
The Economics of Gender Balance
Why does gender matter? In short, it is an economic driver. If women’s economic participation was equal to that of men, it would add US$28 trillion to global GDP1. Research also shows that greater gender diversity throughout a firm can create greater cognitive diversity and lead to better outcomes—for investors and for our industry2.
This is not a call for quotas but for an even playing field, including at the most senior levels of leadership. It sends an important message in recruiting and retaining talent: Gender diversity is a strategic priority not only because it is the fair thing to do, but because companies with diverse leadership tend to perform better3.
We know that seeing truly is believing—there is real power in seeing yourself reflected in a role model. With more women in leadership roles, a rising generation of financial services professionals can envision what’s possible and be inspired by their accomplishments.
The Fearless Girl statue is a relatable and aspirational symbol. I am inspired by her; I see in her the faces of female colleagues who are confident and successful, owning the trail they blaze. Today she stands in front of a “living wall” that symbolizes real advancement and the importance of continuing to improve gender diversity across all levels of leadership. It honors this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, which is about building a gender-equal world. #EachforEqual reflects how our individual achievements add up to real societal changes.