Female Sales Director in Financial Services?
There’s more hens with teeth….

PUBLISHED JULY 2020

Fram has a long track record of placing people into sales and distribution roles. Indeed I’ve personally been placing people into wealth & asset management sales since 2007 and it dawned on me the other day, that whilst I’ve worked with many senior women, only one of them were actually the Sales Director. Only one of the women I’d worked with, many of whom had faultless CVs, were ever in the number one seat.

For some time firms have been given clear signals that having a balanced team isn’t just about equality, it’s good business sense too. As far back as 2013, McKinsey found a strong link between gender diversity within senior management and return on sales. Whilst this study focused on public companies, there’s no reason to think that private companies should perform differently. Indeed, an HBR survey focused on venture capital also found a dramatic correlation between diversity and financial outcomes.

Then, shortly after this in 2015, the New York Times ran the headline that “Fewer Women run big companies than men named John”. At this time, the World Economic Forum published a breakdown of women in senior roles by industry in 2014: hedge funds 3%, private equity 4-6%, Venture Capital 9%, Corporate Pensions 30%, Endowments and Foundations 37%.

Now there’s definitely been progress since then. In the UK, we’ve had the Women in Finance Charter (link to list of signatories here) and firms have run their own diversity programmes, but there is still an astonishing lack of diversity in senior sales roles. Why?

“We felt there was a lack of role models, no women to aim to be like. To be able to imagine yourself in that role by seeing someone who looks like you.”
Judith Milne, Former Chair of the Royal Aeronautical Society

It starts at the beginning

Finance isn’t an industry many people know much about, and so it is hard for our schools to talk knowledgeably about this sector to their pupils. However, as the insightful quote from Judith Milne points out above, it’s particularly hard when those you do see in those roles, on the television perhaps, don’t look like you.

More so than ever, if firms want to encourage girls to join their industry, they need to engage in outreach programmes to inspire and engage those talented people within the next generation. One other area we’ve seen grow is clients inviting those from more diverse backgrounds for insight days.

Application processes

Thames Water recently saw a surge in women applying for manual jobs after they made their wording in adverts less masculine. It identified words like “competitive”, “confident”, “champion” as masculine coded. Since they changed the language, the proportion of female applicants surged by 46%.

A coronavirus bonus

Studies have shown, women are still more likely to take on more child responsibilities at home and to take more time out from work. The latter point has been shown in some studies to be perceived as a lack of professional commitment. Combined with a traditional 9-5 working week, with time spent commuting, this compounds the problem of a lack of senior female advancement.

However, in our recent survey an overwhelming number of people, 92% of respondents, favour some sort of flexible working. We feel it will be hard for firms to demand their staff return to offices five days a week without some flexible working arrangements. We can only see this helping female workers and the benefits for employers will be numerous, including increased retention.

Changing expectations

Many were aware of gender diversity five years ago, but we can’t remember any female candidates ever asking us about a prospective employer’s gender diversity. However, now candidates ask us all the time about a firm’s board composition. In effect, the message is “if I don’t see any female leaders, what does that say about my career prospects if I’m a woman in that firm?”.

A key part of our client meetings now is asking firms if they are a signatory to the Women in Finance Charter. It’s not just a sales tool or corporate platitudes, it matters. Firms need to tap into the entire talent pool available and not just 50% of it. They need to retain high performers and to keep their knowledge within the business, rather than letting colleagues leave due to rigid thinking.

There isn’t an “old girls’ club”

I was talking to a friend of mine recently, who has a successful career in sales, and she made the point that in her experience there wasn’t an “old girls' club”. There wasn’t an established network that aspiring females could tap into, and there were few female mentors. Therefore, female networking events are very important to help build these useful ties.

About Fram

Fram Search was founded in 2010 by Simon Roderick, who led the Wealth & Asset Management practice of a London based search firm. Our clients include asset managers, hedge funds, family offices, private equity firms,  private wealth investment managers, and fintechs.

Fram provides clients with both sector and functional recruitment expertise and our team has helped clients secure both individuals and teams. For more information, please contact us on 01525 864 372 or email sroderick@framsearch.com