Fund Finance Insights

Women in Finance

5 minute read time

We speak to three leading lights in the finance industry, who have seen times change for the better when it comes to equality and diversity.

Jeannette Lichner, non-executive director, Financial Conduct Authority

“Each of us are formed by our history, and the most defining feature of mine was being one of four daughters of parents that immigrated to the US from Argentina and Czechoslovakia in 1955 with only $200 and good educations. That shaped my life and career, as working hard and persevering – whatever the obstacles – were key messages in my upbringing.

“My years at the University of Virginia taught me many things, including accounting and business (after two years of a variety of courses including psychology, physics and Spanish) but, most importantly, it gave me a great love for learning which stays with me to this day. It is a blessing and a curse as I tend to be involved in an unusually diverse range of activities, requiring me to keep on top of developments around all of them.

“My first career role was with Price Waterhouse NYC, where my clients were manufacturing firms, and after three years I stumbled into financial services when Morgan Stanley recruited me to join the NYC office. One year later, in 1984, the firm transferred me to London for ‘one or two years’ and London is where I have remained since.

“What has kept me in the industry has been the fact it changes so quickly. There is always more to learn and it attracts smart, interesting people. I was fortunate in my career because when I came to London the industry was just starting to globalise and Morgan Stanley grew from 150 to 2,500 people in 10 years. That growth enabled me to do a wide variety of roles which fit my interests – finance, operations, corporate finance, human resources and technology. What remains motivating for me is being involved in a variety of things, learning, working with all sorts of people, and sharing whatever I can whilst supporting people to grow and learn as well.

“As I reflect on my career, I recognise it was not easy being a woman, often the most senior woman. It was quite isolating and a few times quite hostile. Back in my day maternity leave was three months, working from home was not an option, and paternity leave was not on the radar. We need to remember this reflected not banking but society in general. Even socially, some men would ignore me when they learned I had a career.

“My future hopes for the industry? I would like to see an industry that welcomes people of all types equally – whatever their ethnicity, gender, nationality, education, profession, disability etc. Inclusion is much more than diversity. Then we will truly represent and better serve the communities we serve.”

“Employment laws have changed quite a lot over my career, and they’re much more family-friendly. When men feel comfortable taking parental leave, as well as women, it levels the playing field tremendously”

Sally Doyle-Linden, CFO, Clearbell Capital

Sally Doyle-Linden, CFO at Clearbell Capital

“The school I went to in Durham was just the normal school down the road, but I was one of the first girls to attend. It was all quite fun but there was no careers advice; however I won a place at Oxford to study chemistry. I didn’t want to stay in the academic world and, for me, it seemed important to get something under my belt that would take me a little bit further. So accountancy seemed like a good option and was a great foundation for property and finance.

“When I first went into property, you weren’t so acutely aware how few females there were. Quite often if you did come across another female – whether they be a lawyer or financier – they’d sidle up to you and say ‘oh, it’s good to see another woman here’. That doesn’t really happen anymore.

“I’ve been lucky to work with good people throughout my career and haven’t suffered from misogyny as a result of being in the gender minority. My hope is that women and underrepresented people in finance will be seen for what they are within their own careers rather than as a labelled group.

“Employment laws have changed quite a lot over my career, and they’re much more family-friendly. When men feel comfortable taking parental leave, as well as women, it levels the playing field tremendously.

“The good thing that will come out of the pandemic is the shift in technology and the ability to work from home. Hopefully women won’t sacrifice their careers because they can now juggle parenthood with work if their employers are open to different ways of working. At Clearbell, we have a number of part-time senior females who work flexibly. Hopefully other property firms will start seeing that and be able to adapt the way they work.

“Other support we offer is mentorship, which is different to my experience in the 1980s. There were senior individuals in companies that I worked for who would look out for you, but nothing as formal as a mentor. We didn’t even have appraisals.”

Susan Fouquier, head of Institutional Banking, Guernsey, RBS International

“I had a bit of a false start when I left school and (with hindsight!) chose the wrong thing to study at university. It took me a couple of years to work out what I really wanted to do, and I read International Business & Modern Languages at Strathclyde, as a mature student. My eldest son was born during my third year of a five-year course, so I experienced the challenges of being a working mother early in my career. I was lucky to study in France during my penultimate year, which led to me returning to France to work when I graduated, and this is where I discovered fund finance.

“I had hoped we would have stopped talking about gender diversity by this stage in my career, but unfortunately I still see it as an issue. I attended an industry dinner recently and spotted a number of what appeared to be all male tables, and I am still talking to female colleagues about confidence issues and imposter syndrome.

“We can all take simple actions to help the pipeline of talented women in business: look at your supply chain to see how many women-led businesses are in there (should you have any targets?); ensure anyone involved in recruitment understands unconscious bias and that interview panels have appropriate diversity; try reverse mentoring with someone from a different background to your own and be prepared to talk about subjects that make you feel uncomfortable. All that being said, in Guernsey I am delighted to see so many senior women across all markets, so there is no shortage of great role models.

“In my early career, while the bank team had a number of female colleagues, externally I was often the only woman in the room. I think attitudes to diversity and inclusion have clearly moved forward since then, and personally I am challenging myself more on the wider issue of diversity of thinking, rather than just focusing on gender.”

By Nina Bryant and Rob Haynes