The Financial Times earlier in the week produced a fascinating and informative “slideshow” of top women professors in financial education.
When asked; “What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a woman working in finance?” the female professors’ replies included the following:
- Performing at the highest level as finance academic means that sacrifices in other areas of life must be made. Missing out on important birthdays, holidays and school events is not uncommon and I often feel guilty
- The biggest challenge has been international mobility. I saw with my male colleagues that their spouses happily accompanied them, but my husband is not keen on quitting his job and starting from scratch abroad
- My biggest challenge has not been in the field of finance itself but rather the difficulties in balancing work and family
- You must prove quickly – and often with greater quality – that in addition to bringing your gender you bring knowledge and experience
- The single biggest challenge I faced was establishing credibility with senior colleagues as a long term practitioner in the field
- The biggest challenge as a women in finance is the small representation of women in general in the industry
These are telling comments and, I fear, representative of women at the top of their field in most careers.
In addition, the women in the FT feature speak for most of those in similar high-powered positions across Europe. Life for those who break through the glass ceiling is rarely easy and women face many challenges which are completely foreign to men.
Although women have by and large achieved acceptance at the higher levels of the public and private sectors, it is clear that this is by no means a given. Women still have to prove themselves more than their male counterparts, and also still do the majority of the caring for children and elderly dependants.
This is, I believe, changing, at least in northern Europe. Some countries, notably those in Scandinavia, are well ahead. However, we all need to work to improve the position of women, both at work and at home. In particular, the work-life balance needs special attention. This is the big challenge for those of us who legislate on these issues.