Women in Financial Services Career

Challenge: SketchNote & Ethnography Combined

A lot of time and money has been invested across all business sectors to improve the representation of women in higher level positions. And certainly, things have improved overall. However, the financial services industry has significantly lagged behind other industries with results — though not with investment in the initiative. I see it play out, too. I work in financial services, at a firm that is better than most in this area — and yet I rarely see women who have a story I can at all connect or relate to in any of those high level positions I dreamed of having when I started my career. I’ve also found myself less interested in pursuing those positions anymore. Why? Am I having a mid-life crisis of sorts?

Well, actually, in a way — yes. Because Oliver Wyman does a bi-annual study on Women in Finance and found that there is a “mid-career conflict” that women face in financial services that men don’t. It’s a situation where when they weigh the benefits of continuing to push and pursue those high level roles with the personal costs, they more often find the cost too high, compared to their male peers. I am, in fact, in that mid-career point, so I completely relate to this. And, like many other women in my industry (20–30% more than women in other industries, by the way), I am finding the costs too high with the chance for reward too low, so I am experiencing the phenomenon of “self-selecting out.” Meaning, I take myself out of the running; I choose not to pursue. It’s not that my company won’t consider me, it’s not that the opportunities aren’t there — I’ve just decided, for various reasons (some unique to women in the workplace, some not) to not pursue. I’ve done it mostly subconsciously over the last year or two — until I read this study, I didn’t realize I was part of this phenomenon.

I interviewed 6 women in multiple companies in my industry who did not self-select out and asked about this “mid-career conflict.” Had they experienced it? Could they point out a situation that they distinctly remember made them pause and reconsider this path as a woman? All of them said yes.

Here is my SketchNote of the Oliver Wyman Study, and the personal experiences these women shared of the mid-career conflict women face in our industry.

Here is the most profound quote of the study (to me):

Here is a link to the study:

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