Women In Finance: It’s time to close the gender gaps and stereotypes

Qinthara Fasya, DigitalCFO Asia | 8 March 2022

It’s 2022, do these gender stereotypes still exist?

This International Women’s Day, DigitalCFO Asia speaks with remarkable Women in Finance to find out their point of view on this topic

As the nature of labor changes across the world as a result of automation, Asian women confront unique hurdles as they attempt to improve their economic standing. There is a stable increase year on year when it comes to labor force participation rate of women in Singapore, where 64.2% of the workforce consists of women, which is more than half as compared to men.

Women in Asia’s employment have a lot of possibilities, but they also have a lot of obstacles. Let’s start at the beginning: Asian women contribute roughly 36% of the region’s GDP, which is in line with the worldwide average, although there is a broad variety. China has a greater percentage, over 41%, whereas India has a lesser percentage, less than 20%.


Upskilling to Remain Relevant in the Workforce

It’ll be a period of huge transitions. Women will have to retrain themselves in a new set of abilities that will be useful in the future. Women will need to spend far less time on typical administrative tasks in the healthcare industry, for example, because patients will register themselves on mobile devices as they enter hospitals, and artificial-intelligence-driven gadgets will do some diagnostic tasks.

However, the healthcare professional will have to spend a lot more time communicating with patients and stakeholders, which will need a lot of interpersonal skills and higher-order problem-solving abilities. These changes will be difficult, and they will have to be done in big numbers. In India and China, ten million to forty million people will have to make such adjustments simply to stay in their current jobs.

Joanne Edwards, Chief Risk and Data Officer at Wisr notes that “During the pandemic, something that came to light was the clear need for connection, culture and purpose in the workplace. However, integral to a happy, diverse workplace is removing bias and allowing everyone to succeed.”

“For women and other marginalised groups to thrive and contribute to excellent workplaces, there needs to be constant development in their diversity and inclusion policies (globally), clear pathways to help these groups succeed, and training to ensure leaders are conscious of the biases that may be overlooked. With most businesses implementing a remote workplace, employees have demonstrated the ability to be productive while working from home. This should be considered an ongoing option for women to provide flexibility for mothers and those on maternity leave.”

Key Stereotypes that should be diminished

CEOs should take steps to assist women in making the transition to the Asian labor market of the future. And the main reason is that their businesses stand to benefit the most. Dropout rates are actually fairly high nowadays. Women occupy roughly 40 to 45 percent of entry-level jobs in Asian corporations, but at the C-suite level—at senior-management levels—the ratio declines to about 25 percent in Singapore, but as low as 4 percent in Japan and India.

Joanne highlights that while we’ve seen growth in women entering these roles and engaging with this work, we still need to work on the stereotype that these roles are male-centric for a reason and create better pathways for women and non-binary people to enter the space.

More generally, a key stereotype that needs to be left in the past is that staff need to be ‘corporate animals’, dedicating themselves entirely to their roles. Instead of this, all staff should feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, sharing their interests, passions and learnings whilst being vulnerable and open to growth, feedback and failure.

– Joanne Edwards, Chief Risk and Data Officer at Wisr

Companies are losing a lot of talent as a result of this. And CEOs must take action to remedy this. We’ve discovered that a top-level CEO commitment to reducing gender disparity, or inequity for women, is critical in assisting businesses in making this transformation.

Ruchika Kohli, Regional Head of Consumer Business at Instarem, Americas & Europe, on the other hand, states that these women stereotypes were being elevated even more during the pandemic when most corporations had to operate from home.

There is a stereotype that women need to be able to balance – work and family, career and motherhood, but the truth is that every working adult within a household needs to and should be doing so. Through the pandemic many workplaces have shifted to flexible models that allow women and men the chance to do what they need to – balance.

– Ruchika Kohli, Regional Head of Consumer Business at Instarem, Americas & Europe

Some organizations are doing numerous new things that others may learn from and undertake as a result of their top-level dedication. In Australia, for example, some businesses are rethinking their entire business strategy to allow women to work from home and also go to a tiny regional business center or regional mall where an office is set up for them. This is especially beneficial to ladies who find it difficult to commute across great distances on a daily basis. They have the option of working from home or from a regional center. Companies in Australia are also experimenting with job sharing, in which women perform four-hour shifts in a row and contractors fill in the remainder of the time.

Women stepping up in these Male-Dominated roles

Today, many financial and fintech companies are working to help women succeed. This entails recognizing women and assisting them in their advancement based on their accomplishments and output rather than preconceived preconceptions. “This shouldn’t be a discussion point in 2022 and should be a given,” says Ruchika.

Year after year, the number of women entering STEM fields has risen steadily. However, according to data from the Australian Government, women made up just 36% of university STEM enrolments in 2019-2020, while the number of women working across all STEM-qualified industries was only 28%, and key management employees and senior female managers made up only 23%.

While we’ve seen an increase in women entering these jobs and engaging with the work, we still need to address the assumption that these roles are male-centric for a reason and offer more opportunities for women and non-binary persons to enter the field.

Agnes Lim, Chief Financial Officer at NTT Ltd notes that it is concerning when we stereotype leadership traits such as self-confidence, assertiveness, taking charge, solving problems, courage and risk-taking ability that are typically similar to masculine stereotypes.

In the current scenario, there are other factors like integrity, communication, self-awareness, empathy and learning agility are top determinants for all leadership roles. Hence, we must be more objective when assessing profiles for such roles and ensure they align with the required leadership capabilities and are in the best interest of the organization’s position to succeed.

– Agnes Lim, Chief Financial Officer at NTT Ltd

Tips for Success

Let’s hear from these exceptional ladies about how other women may break into the finance industry without being rejected or ignored.

When it comes to professional endeavours, I have often acknowledged the term ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. For me, this looked like seeing a gap that I could fill, implementing the structure to do so and taking the plunge.

Joanne Edwards, Chief Risk and Data Officer at Wisr

The only tip I would share is know you’re worth – grab for your seat at the table, make it clear why your voice matters and find advocates who help you do so. The finance, and especially the fintech, industry is an exciting, thriving and a welcoming space where women across roles have the ability to excel.

Ruchika Kohli, Regional Head of Consumer Business at Instarem, Americas & Europe

My advice to all women entering finance roles is to not be afraid to move out of your comfort zone when opportunities arise and trust your instincts. Play to your strengths, empower yourself by identifying your strengths and weaknesses and work on it. Spend time building up your network, including your supporters as well as those whom you can support, be visible and ask for feedback. Regarding rejections, believe in your knowledge and your ability and keep things in perspective – for every opening, there are typically more rejections than acceptance.

Agnes Lim, Chief Financial Officer at NTT Ltd