Furthering women's success in the working world is not easy, but a recent study shows how necessary it is. The Thomson Reuters Risky Women group tackles the issue head-on.
When it comes to an issue as large and pervasive as barriers to women’s professional success, progress can be slow and actionable steps hard to identify. A recent finding that women in the risk, regulatory and compliance industry are punished more harshly than their male colleagues when they commit similar offenses, however, underscores the need to meet this challenge.
Similar offenses, disparate punishment
Female employees in financial services can be punished more harshly than their male counterparts for similar missteps, according to recent study published by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
The study’s authors found that a female adviser who commits some form of misconduct – such as buying stocks for a client without permission, or churning a client’s account – is 50 percent more likely to lose her job than a male adviser who breaks similar rules.
Remedying a long-standing problem
The study was one of the topics of discussion at a recent summit for Risky Women, a Thomson Reuters network for women in the risk, regulation and compliance fields.
The women attendees felt some of this dynamic stemmed from the widely held perception that a man committing misdeeds is a risk-taker going out on a limb for his firm, which can insulate him from less criticism and penalty, plus cushion him from as much reprisal when seeking a new position in the industry.
There was a general consensus this dynamic can only change with the inclusion of more women at higher levels of decision-making in firms – replacing what has been more of a boy’s club atmosphere of protecting one’s male counterparts – and evaluating cases more fairly.
Not comfortable leaving it at the inclusion of more women in the upper executive and board of directors levels, the Risky Women participants also noted how getting men to notice their own biases (through trainings and less formal discussions, for example) could go a long way toward showcasing the many ways discrepancies based on gender can manifest themselves.
One woman noted that to be taken seriously by your employer, you have to first start by taking yourself and your skills and accomplishments seriously. She had pushed back at first when being given an “expert” label at her company, thinking aloud that “specialist” would be preferable. She changed her mind when she saw how matter-of-factly her male counterpart assumed the title, though. Any perception that she was not on par with him should no begin with her, she decided.
Speaking up is not easy. But each woman felt strongly that gender inclusion and career advancement for women required vocal advocacy that should be supplied by women and men both, and that being capable of success in the office did not mean downplaying one’s role as a parent or other caregiver, or even downplaying one’s femininity.
The process has begun, but progress is slow and requires active engagement, idea-swapping, and networking in forums and groups like the Risky Women one.
What can we do about it?
After first being launched successfully in Asia, Thomson Reuters hosted its first Risky Women event in North America last year, bringing together a global network of female leaders who came together to connect, celebrate and champion women in risk and compliance roles.
The group has given a voice to women who work in financial services in these challenging roles, and by swapping stories, ideas and advice, plus challenging the existing framework within which women can sometimes sense limited growth or support, hopes to change the narrative.
Risky Women is a global network connecting, celebrating and championing women in Risk, Regulation and Compliance.