Why are so few women in finance? It’s complicated

Hollywood, it is often said, is tough on women. When Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director for The Hurt Locker in 2010, she became the first-ever female director since 1929—the inaugural year of the Academy Awards—to win this coveted award. Yet Hollywood is hardly an outlier.

There’s another high profile, big money industry where women have been historically underrepresented. In the upper echelons of financial management and investment services, female workers have long been notoriously scarce.

Women in finance

Studies conducted by the Harvard Business School paint a tough picture for women: among senior roles in venture capital and private equity, women held just 9% and 6% of the positions, respectively. Hedge funds bring that number to lower depths: women occupied only 11% of senior management roles.

When it comes to balancing gender equality, finance has simply not kept pace with many other professional fields, such as law, academia, and medicine. That’s despite the fact that women now receive the majority of college degrees across every category, from bachelor’s degrees to doctorates.


  • Gender equality in the finance industry is behind other fields, like medicine or academia.
  • Women and men begin in parity at the start of their careers in finance, but the C-suite is still predominantly male in the financial sector.
  • Organisations should offer programs to bring young females into the world of finance through internships and mentoring programs.

Business school

Yet while university classrooms and campus walkways are populated with more women than men, finance and business degrees still slightly remain the province of male students for the most part. For example, in 2019, 42% of students at the Harvard Business School, were women.

A 2018 report from McKinsey found that while male and females in finance begin their careers on equal footing, as the ladder rises, women only account for 19% of the positions of power (aka the C-suite).

From school to work

According to figures published by Glassdoor, men accounted for 61.5 percent of degrees in finance. And such numbers do not seem to be improving. Could low job satisfaction in the field play a role? The Mergis Group Women in Finance survey indicated that less than half of women in the fields of accounting and finance are satisfied with their careers.

Investing in young women

Declining numbers among women studying finance paired with low job satisfaction reports demand a creative solution to combat an acute problem.

Organizations programs and offerings should be designed to motivate, interest, and inspire young women to join the investment management and greater financial services field; study core finance, markets, and asset management concepts under the tutelage of business school professors, and professionals working in the field of finance.

The bottom line

By offering young women a training program that culminates in a resume-friendly certificate, organisations can help pave the way towards recruiters being able to identify promising women candidates in the field easily.

Article written by
Sarah Chandler
Contributing Author