Women in finance start out at parity with their male counterparts but make up just 19% of C-suite executive positions, according to the McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org’s 2017 Women in the Workplace Report. In fact, their data shows that women lose ground relative to male peers at every stage, with the biggest drop occurring early in tenure. In the first critical step to manager, women are 18% less likely to be promoted than their male peers.
The reasons for these disparities are complex but visibility is one factor. If girls and women don’t see examples of successful women—particularly in fields where women are underrepresented, like finance—it’s possible that they are less likely to pursue careers in those fields.
On March 8, three Wells Fargo leaders were part of the solution to this lack of visibility. Kristi Mitchem, CEO of Wells Fargo Asset Management; Henrietta Pacquement, Wells Fargo Asset Management portfolio manager; and Marci Ryvicker, Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst all participated in a 24-hour women’s “takeover” of Bloomberg Television. They joined other notable industry leaders in marking International Women’s Day, celebrated around the world each year as a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The philosophy behind Bloomberg’s coverage was significant—the news and format were to be the same as any other day—but with the guest viewpoints provided by women. The visibility was meant to show that financial services and financial expertise are realms that women can truly own. If girls see more examples like this, it may give them the confidence to join those fields as well.
“I think one of the ways we can make a difference is by actually changing what people see in the media,” said Mitchem, when asked during her interview about International Women’s Day. “I firmly believe in this idea that she can be what she can see.”
Mitchem also shared her viewpoints on investment strategies and opportunities for women in finance during a conversation with host Jason Kelly on Bloomberg Markets: America.
Pacquement, recently ranked among the world’s top women portfolio managers by CNBC, appeared on the London-based Bloomberg Markets: European Open show. She took part in a discussion with the show’s hosts on European Central Bank monetary policy and the impacts of recent trade disputes.
Ryvicker, based in New York, explained the high-profile deals being considered by Disney and Comcast in an interview on Bloomberg Daybreak: Americas.
It’s unlikely we’ll all get the call to appear on Bloomberg, so how can we embody the spirit behind “she can be what she can see?” In the blog post “Speaking from the heart: Women in finance,” portfolio manager Ann Miletti illustrates what happens when a lack of visibility makes it challenging for girls and women to see themselves in finance careers. As her team visits colleges to recruit women finance majors, they have discovered there aren’t enough women in this field to recruit. So Milletti suggests two ways to help girls and women see what they can be, before college and once they’ve entered the workforce:
- First, reach out to girls through finance-focused high school programs that mirror STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) initiatives—in ways that appeal to the next generation’s desire to help, and foster interest in careers focused on doing just that.
- Second, don’t forget the powerful role a mentor can play in the workforce. Miletti credits a mentor, her former boss, for encouraging her to push through her fears and learn to succeed. She pays that back now, mentoring junior team members.
International Women’s Day provided a powerful way to show women and girls real stories of strength and success in the financial services industry, from portfolio managers to CEOs. As for the other 364 days of the year, we can all play a role in advancing gender parity, inspired by Mitchem’s own call to action:
“We need all of you to be champions and also influencers. Women: speak out, be visible, be brave, and support each other. Find your voices. Men: be the echo chamber. Give women opportunities, support them and advocate for them—push for women to continue progressing in whatever their chosen path is.”
Wells Fargo was the lead sponsor of Bloomberg’s International Women’s Day coverage, which featured women from all industries, highlighting both the individual and collective female voices on all topics related to the markets, business, and leadership.