Research by Ilitch School associate dean addresses gender gap in financial services industry

In June 2018, General Motors became the first major auto company in history to name a female, Dhivya Suryadevara, as its chief financial officer. This was a notable milestone, to be sure, and an encouraging sign that women are increasingly being recognized for their ability to lead.

Yet, there remains a substantial gender gap due to deeply-imbedded biases against women in the financial services industry. Bertie M. Greer, associate dean for strategy and planning at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business, addressed this issue in a recent article for AdviseHER, a publication about women in insurance and financial services.

According to Greer, the gender gap in the financial services persists because “social norms spill over into the workforce and create barriers for women that don’t exist for men.” One such social norm is the presumption that women aren’t capable of succeeding in fields that require math. Not only is this an erroneous claim, as Greer writes, but it has also done real harm in deterring women from pursuing careers in the STEM fields.

“Women should be encouraged to enter challenging fields that are math-oriented and that focus on business and finance,” she writes. “This can be done by achieving a college degree or any number of certifications.”

Another barrier women face is the divisive nature of becoming pregnant while employed. “Motherhood is often seen as a foe to the work environment,” Greer writes, adding that “this very negative philosophy is one reason for the absence of, and inability to retain, women in certain fields.”

So, what can companies do to acquire and retain more women? Greer suggests starting with the women already employed. Current female employees will likely advocate for better representation and hopefully prompt the hiring of more women. 

Greer agrees that the promotion of women like Suryadevara and others should be recognized as significant achievements, while also realizing that there is still a lot of work to be done to close the gender gap.

“The financial services industry is full of women who have achieved success on their own terms. These stories should be shared. We are still behind in the workforce. That is OK; however, we must accept it and strive for improvement.”

Greer’s full article can be found in the April 2019 issue of AdviseHER.

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