Big banks embrace daughter day

‘Bring our daughters to work day’ is an opportunity for school-aged girls to experience the world of finance, and it’s addressing serious concerns, writes Robin Christie.

Financial institutions are being encouraged to take part in a workplace initiative aimed at helping to improve gender diversity in the industry.

‘Bring our daughters to work day’, which will take place on 25 September and is supported by FINSIA, is modelled on the successful US initiative ‘Take our daughters and sons to work’ and will be held for the third time.

A range of financial institutions and banks, such as ANZ and Goldman Sachs, are involved in the day.

As FINSIA non-executive director Victoria Weekes explained, the initiative aims to introduce the finance industry to young women in a fun, engaging and positive way – while recognising there are still gender diversity challenges that need to be overcome. Ms Weekes said organisations that are participating in the day are aiming to encourage more young women to join the financial services industry and see it as a pathway to forging a fulfilling career.

While she said that FINSIA has a range of gender diversity initiatives, including surveys and research publications, ‘Bring our daughters to work day’ represents an experience-based approach to tackling an important issue.

Ms Weekes explained that taking part in the day allows parents to introduce their daughters to their workplace, and view their industry “through the lens of young women”.

The day is also an opportunity to highlight the potential that young women have in the financial services industry, she said. “But also to highlight to the parents and other people participating in the day, some of the barriers that exist for women progressing to senior levels in the industry.”


Glass ceiling

With more and more women choosing to study finance and enter the industry, this lack of representation at the higher levels of management is an issue that needs addressing.

“For a long time now we've had a really good pipeline of women coming in to the industry. More than 50 per cent of graduates from finance-related disciplines are women – and have been for more than a decade now,” Ms Weekes said, adding that women now represent at least 50 per cent of financial services industry participants.

"What we don't have is fair and appropriate representation of women at senior levels. Unlike some industries like mining and construction, and even some of the technology-based industries, we don't have a pipeline issue. What we have an issue with is making sure that those really talented young women progress through the ranks to the senior levels."

This is why profiling senior women within financial services organisations is a big part of the initiative. Some people may see some senior roles such as chief financial officer or senior investment manager as jobs that aren't typically taken on by women, Ms Weekes explained, so profiling women who are succeeding in these roles helps to break down the perception that they're men-only zones.

That said, she explained that some industries do face a pipeline issue when it comes to attracting female new entrants. She pointed to investment banking as a case in point.

“A lot of young women, by the time they're graduates they've already decided that they don't want to go into investment banking because it's too male dominated,” Ms Weekes said. “So those types of industries are really keen to improve the pipeline, not because there aren't very capable and talented women able to join the industry, but to show that they want more young women to join their ranks and get into senior roles.”

Getting involved

While the initiative is only in its third year, Ms Weekes said that more and more organisations are choosing to take part in the day. “We've got three of the four major banks involved, and we've got major investment banks involved,” she said. “So we'll encourage as many organisations as possible to get involved and then help them with how to structure the day.”

The suggested structure is to hold the event over half a day, including activities that are designed to encourage current and future generations to think imaginatively about their family, work and community lives.

Age-group specific resources are available on FINSIA website's Bring our daughters to work day page. These include a “my first resume” activity for nine to 12 year-olds, and a “sharemarket game” for 13-plus year-olds.

“Even for the quite young ones, you can start them thinking about developing a resume, and getting the girls and young women thinking differently about themselves and the industry,” said Ms Weekes. “We're really trying to get as many organisations involved as possible, and take it on as a regular annual event.”

This article was first published in FINSIA'S INFINANCE news.

Robin Christie