Finance is an international language — but it’s a language that needs to include more women in high-ranking positions.
That’s the assertion of Calgary Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Deborah Yedlin, whose organization launched its Women in Business series with a spotlight conversation sparked about finance on Wednesday.
Linda Dalgetty, CFO of STARS, Laura Didyk, VP of client diversity for BDC, and Shelley Kuipers, co-founder and co-CEO of The51 were all on the panel of female business leaders.
The discussion focused on how government, business leaders and post-secondary institutions can enable opportunities for emerging female leaders and young women considering a career in finance.
“It’s everything from surviving through the executive ranks to having the right kind of mentorship and being open to taking risks,” Yedlin says, adding those are issues that face women in many industries, though finance can be particularly tough.
“It’s interesting because finance is an international language. And I would say that when you look at women in finance around the world, you don’t necessarily see women in those senior ranks.”
The challenges and how to overcome them
“Some of it has to do with a generational shift that’s happening, we don’t have enough women that have necessarily stayed on career paths and continue to pursue those executive positions.”
Yedlin says some of that is not enough support at home, childcare being very expensive, or perhaps, women not taking enough risks in their careers.
“There’s an adage that if there’s a job posted, and there are 10 metrics that the company or the position requires, women could have three but not feel qualified enough to apply, but if men have three of the 10, they’ll give it a shot,” Yedlin says, adding we need to shift that mindset.
Yedlin also believes math should be instilled at a younger age and throughout the schooling experience.
“We need to make sure … that girls are comfortable with numbers. That it is not something to have to get through, and that they actually understand what those numbers can do, and are not afraid to study them. Math is a barrier, especially for women.”
Not every industry is ready
Dalgetty, who is the new CFO of STARS agrees that more needs to be done to bring women to the table when it comes to high-level finance positions.
Previously, she spent seven years at the University of Calgary before leaving her vice-president of finance post for her new position.
In her experience, post secondary was probably the most balanced in terms of men and women in financial leadership roles.
“Outside of that, leadership tables remain male-dominated. And I would say generally, not as many women at the CFO level, and definitely not as many women at the board table,” Dalgetty says.
Yedlin has noticed the same thing, echoing that some industries are harder for women to break into than others.
“The reality is the energy sector has been a really tough place to have that visibility— in terms of supporting women through the senior ranks,” Yedlin says, adding finance is also a tough industry to break into.
It takes a village
Dalgetty believes we need to start mentoring women and girls at a younger age.
“I think it takes a village,” she says.
“We need to teach women how to network, how to get their name and their faces out. You don’t necessarily get a job because you walk into an interview room. It’s because you’ve been at the events and you’ve talked to some of the senior people who are influencing that recruiting.”
Like Yedlin, Dalgetty believes Calgary has a unique opportunity to bring more women to the table — including in finance.
“I think that there are a lot of great opportunities in Calgary and we have a lot of women doing great things for women in Calgary,” she says.
“You don’t have to go to Wall Street. You can usually get amazing opportunities in finance here,” she adds.
Click here for more information about the panel speakers.
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