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To mark International Women’s Day on 8th March, our latest article analyses the reasons why women continue to be under-represented in the finance world.

The current climate

Whilst in the past 20 years we have seen great improvements in gender inequality, according to the International Monetary Fund still only 2% of chief executive officers at financial institutions are women. It is tempting to assume that this issue starts at the top and runs right down to trading and broker positions and whilst this is partially true, there are other factors that have acted as barriers to women entering junior roles within finance for decades. These issues present a challenge today for companies to attract female talent.

Last year, the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney gave a speech stating that “Finance offers so much, but still doesn’t offer enough for women”, recognising that even with recent improvements in equality, there is still some way to go.

Looking at history

But why is this such a challenge? Surely today the growing consciousness of equality from employers and the willingness of women to work and have successful careers means that this issue should solve itself?

Unfortunately, finance - and particularly trading – has historically been so bad in terms of equality that the willingness of women to work in the sector is low. This issue goes back to the 1960’s and the famous case of Geraldine Weiss, who was unable to get a job in finance due to gender discrimination, so started her own investment newsletter and used to sign it “G. Weiss”. It was getting on for a decade later that she revealed her identity as a female and her newsletter is still used as a template for an existing publication today.

The point is that she felt she needed a 10-year track record before her content could be taken seriously, given the harsh barriers to women that existed at the time.

Whilst things have definitely moved on since then, the trading industry continued to repel women throughout the 80’s and 90’s.

Firstly, the aggressive and overly masculine trading floor environment has been an obvious barrier to women considering jobs as brokers or traders. This was particularly rife in the 1990’s, with many insiders revealing the sexist nature to traditional trading floors. The semi-glorification of this in the highly acclaimed film, The Wolf of Wall Street, further highlighted the toxic environment that existed at this time.

During this time there was undoubtedly high levels of gender inequality, an issue we may still be dealing with today but something which individuals like Mary Erdoes have helped address. However, for such a long time women simply did not want these types of roles, therefore today it is harder to find female candidates who have amassed 10-15 years of experience, meaning the senior trading roles invariably get filled by men. Combined, these two issues help explain how only 13% of individuals approved by the UK’s FCA for trading roles in 2019 were female.

But are women actually better suited to finance and trading than men?

Many studies have shown that by narrowing the gender gap would create greater stability in the banking system and enhance economic growth. In another study by Warwick Business School, women traders outperform men by 1.8% despite trading less than them.

The basis of both these studies focuses on the difference between the male and female ego. A female trader is more likely to recognise her own lack of knowledge and take the time to learn and research in order to improve. Men are less likely to acknowledge this and also more likely to act on impulse, due to an overconfidence in their knowledge and ability resulting in taking unnecessary risks.

Universal Partners FX welcomes women applicants

At the time of writing, around 40% of senior traders at Universal Partners FX are women. Having come through our intense training program, all female members of staff are equipped with the knowledge and expertise required to be a top foreign exchange trader.

Director Dhaval Patel adds “We work hard to create an environment that is inclusive of everyone. We are a long way from the old idea of a trading floor – we promote respect and professionalism.”

“However, with the number of women applicants to job adverts remaining low, Universal Partners FX want to actively open the door to females looking for a career in foreign exchange. Gender is irrelevant, all we ask is for a certain level of work-ethic and the openness to learn”.

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