Formal attire and a neat pair of Christian Louboutin shoes won’t necessarily result in you earning more money than your male counterparts.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a network of firms in 158 countries and a work force exceeding 250 000 people, annually compile reports about tendencies in the financial world. One of these reports released in the middle of this year shows that women are becoming increasingly dynamic in the financial industry, but that they remain in the backseat when it comes to salaries.
James de Villiers from Business Insider SA reported in July that sectors such as healthcare, media and technology still pay far less for female employees than their male counterparts.
According to PwC managing directors’ compensation trends, only 3,3% of the companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange has women in the Chief Executive Officer position.
Furthermore, the World Economic Forums’ Global Gender Gap Report last year found that South Africa has the 19th smallest gender gap out of 149 countries when it comes to compensation.
However, the good news is that millennial women (born between 1980 and 1995) increasingly act as agents who bring change when it comes to people’s attitude and behaviour.
In a poll done by PwC more than three quarters of the CEO’s believed that diversity promotes customer satisfaction, business performance and innovation.
Chrizelda Fourie is a chartered accountant and financial manager in the health sector in Johannesburg.
Karli* is a senior accountant for the past fifteen years in the telecommunication and software industry.
Chrizelda says there are definitely more women in the financial industry, from ground level to director positions in comparison to ten or twenty years ago
“The industry is still dominated by men but there is definitely an increase in the number of women who holds managerial positions,” said Chrizelda.
Chrizelda’s experience is that the number of women who are promoted in the workplace are also increasing.
She said: “In the past six months four women in our Financial Department was promoted.”
Karli also believes that women in the financial sector and especially the business industry increased in the past few years.
Chrizelda says: “Men and women are treated equally. I feel the environment in which we move has changed drastically in terms of benefits, flexitime etc. Women’s benefits are specifically looked at to bring it in line with those of men. I don’t think we are where we should be when it comes to equal treatment yet, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Predominantly a male world
Is the financial sector predominantly a male world? Karli believes it depends from which point of view you are looking at it.
“The big question is whether women have a choice to participate in the bigger occupational market and the answer to this is, yes they do. Those women who want to climb the corporate ladder can do so, but it is not all women’s wishes or dreams. I feel more women make the choice to participate nowadays.”
Karli believes that women and men are definitely treated equally in the financial industry. She says: “Unfortunately South Africans have developed a mentality of always being the victim. From the victim’s point of view, you are always the victim. If you choose to be a creator rather than a victim, you will notice opportunities in all circumstances.”
Research indicates that women are less extravagant spenders when it comes to spending company money and that they have a calming influence on the balance of expenditure in the company.
Climb the ladder in the financial industry as a woman like this:
Participate in conversations and sit at the table when meetings or discussions are held. Do not sit in the corner.
The financial industry is rather formal in general, but it can also depend on the type of industry you are in, for example financial institutions are much more formal than FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods). Familiarise yourself with the company’s rules about appearance and their requirements when you start working there.
Believe in yourself and others will follow your example. Confidence goes a long way. Whether it be in meetings with clients or discussions about increases, remember that confidence plays a big role in the impression women leaves on people, especially in meetings. This links to professional attire and etiquette. People are more likely to listen to and take someone seriously who has confidence, also in terms of appearance and use of language.
Abandon any mentality of being a victim you might have. Do your work to the best of your ability and always be ready and able to take on a challenge.
Know your field of study; no one will argue with an expert.
Stay away from gossiping in the office and other dialogues of being a victim. Focus on your work and make yourself unmissable by completing your tasks.
Be clear about your goals for the future. If you want to study further or be promoted, discuss it.
People treat you the way you allow them to treat you. Stand tall and point out unacceptable behaviour. For example, when everyone is on their cell phones during a meeting, pause the meeting and let everyone put away their phones. Also make sure that only the necessary people are invited and that there is a clear agenda with expected results. No one respects someone who wastes their time.
These support the myth that the financial industry is a male world…
Managers do not emphasise the importance of diversity in the workplace enough and end with a shortlist where all candidates are the same, and mostly male.
Some of the factors that strengthens the myth that finances are only for men, is among other things using wording such as “competitive”, “fighter” and “extraordinary” when advertising.
Initial knowledge tests can also separate women who do not perform well under pressure and sift them out, but in other places they are a true attribute.
Women sometimes feel that they get less support from top management than men.
Senior management does not set clear goals in terms of diversity in a company.