Like many industries, the world of finance can often be challenging for women to advance in. This article seeks to provide actionable tips on how career-oriented women in this sector can break the glass ceiling and climb the corporate ladder.

Over the years, women have made considerable strides in closing the gender gap in the corporate world. In America’s financial services, for example, women already make up 54.3% of the workforce, according to global non-profit organization Catalyst.

However, much still has to be done in order to break the glass ceiling. In fact, the same Catalyst study highlighted that, despite achieving parity in terms of numbers, there are far fewer women compared to men at the higher echelons of management in the finance world. Furthermore, a BBC article notes that women in banking and finance experience more pressure compared to men as they rise through the ranks. This is attributed to the so-called 'Superwoman syndrome' where people, including female leaders themselves, put pressure on female employees to be perfect both in the office and at home.

But more than perception, the disparity in how women workers are treated has long been embedded in a system that favors men. For instance, the U.S., despite being one of the richest and most developed countries in the world, offers no national statutory paid maternity leave for working women. This is just one example of how women have to contend with a system that is, intentional or not, inherently biased against them.

Given these statistics, career-oriented women must work twice as hard in order to climb the corporate ladder. After all, making it to the top is one of the best ways to spark true change in the workplace. With that said, here are some tips to give you a head start on your finance journey.

Save and invest

You might ask: what does investing my money have to do with my career? The answer: a lot more than you think. Growing your personal finances allows you to build a safety net that you can fall back on, which in turn lets you take more risks to climb the corporate ladder. Ask your boss for that overseas assignment. Push for that promotion you’ve been eyeing, or even quit your job and create a start-up of your own. As ruthless as it sounds, cold, hard cash enables you to do all of these things with more confidence and security. And with the latitude that comes with being financially free, you can afford to play looser and find other, less conventional avenues for growth in your career.

Pursue relevant education

Leadership is a journey of lifelong learning. Competent leaders never rest on their laurels, and take every opportunity to seek new knowledge that they can apply to their own work. Given this, it’s a good idea to pursue relevant education, especially in a highly technical field like finance. One such degree that can help boost your finance career is an accounting program. For one, there's a constant demand for accounting professionals in various sectors, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that at least 61,700 accounting and auditing opportunities will be available until 2029.

Academic institutions are currently trying to solve this growing skills gap by offering online courses. Those who undertake an online accounting degree develop strategic accounting and financial skills — all without stepping foot inside a campus and with full control over their time. This is especially useful during the COVID-19 crisis, when strict social distancing measures are being enforced. Not only are online degrees just as valuable as traditional degrees, since you learn the same principles and knowledge, you can also take it without giving up your day job due to the degree being 100% online. This allows you to further your finance career both at work and academically at the same time.

Similarly, professionals with an online economics degree are also set to see an 11 to 14% growth in the field between 2016 and 2026, with a forecast of 1,300 economist positions becoming available throughout this period. On the whole, whatever finance-related degree you choose to pursue will better position you for that promotion, so don’t be afraid to enroll.

Nurture the right relationships

While it’s inevitable to ruffle a few feathers on the way up to the top, you will also meet colleagues, mentors, and friends who are sympathetic to your cause. When you do find them, do your best to foster a mutual relationship of learning and camaraderie. Fortunately, one good thing about networking in finance is that there are plenty of women to cheer you on. As mentioned earlier, this is thanks to the slowly shrinking gender gap in the industry. Additionally, you can join professional networks to gain guidance, resources, and career advice to keep you on track and open up new opportunities for career ascension.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

For years, society has conditioned women to be meek and submissive even in the face of injustice. But doing so only perpetuates the vicious cycle and makes it harder for other women to find their own footing in the workplace. As such, it’s better to speak out and voice your concerns, whether that means fighting for equal pay or asking for a promotion. This is especially vital in the context of the finance world, where women leaders earn a whopping 2/3 less than their male counterparts on average. Not only does speaking up set a better example for other women who want to advance their careers, it will also send the message that it’s okay for women to speak their minds, just as men often do to achieve their goals.

Know your worth.

When you're jostling for a higher position in your company, you first need to know your value proposition. This means identifying the key attributes and experiences that set you apart and make you the perfect candidate to take on a leadership role. Knowing exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are will help you more effectively sell your skill set to important stakeholders, or even recognize when you’re getting the short end of the stick. A clear and unbiased view of your value proposition will lend you credibility, and help you sustain your drive for career growth.

Women's expertise and viewpoints are needed in financial services now more than ever. Take charge and become an industry leader with the above tips.

An article by Erin Morgan
Exclusively for