Like many areas of financial services, investment banking has traditionally been seen as a male dominated profession.
We spoke to Lindsey Boden, Head of EMEA Recruiting at Goldman Sachs, about what the firm is doing to challenge these preconceptions and to encourage more female candidates to consider the industry, as well as to two female analysts.
Why is the issue of women in banking so important?
“While employers like ourselves have made positive strides during the past few years in terms of the number of women we recruit, it is fair to say that the female talent pool at some levels of the profession is smaller than employers would like it be.
“It’s important that we recognise this and that, as an industry, we work to change the perception of investment banking as well as the way we attract female candidates to the profession and raise awareness of the breadth of roles within an investment bank.”
Why are there still fewer women in banking than men?
“Some of the disparities begin at a university level. There are still fewer female students studying STEM subject courses (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) than there are men. “These courses have provided a traditional route into finance and investment banking, as many of the skill-sets are perceived as aligned with the opportunities in the industry - although the majority of graduate roles at Goldman Sachs are in fact open to applicants from all disciplines.”
“However, progress has been made, with more women applying for jobs in banking in recent years.
“The size of the female talent pool has increased in part because more women are studying at top universities; more women are studying STEM subjects; and more women want to work in banking than ever before. But there is always more to be done to recruit from the broadest possible pool of talent and cast the net widely.”
Why is it important to have more women in banking?
“There is a clear business case for having more women in banking. In any organisation, you need to have people with different backgrounds and life experiences who can provide a range of perspectives and ideas.
“It is key to our competitiveness, to our culture of excellence and meritocracy, to our ability to serve clients and to maximising return for our shareholders.
“Under representation of women in senior positions can be a related to lower numbers of women at more junior levels. Developing a pipeline of female talent right through an organisation requires us to continue to hire more high calibre women.”
How can this issue be addressed?
“It’s important to inform women more clearly about the industry and challenge any misconceptions that exist.
“Our core message to women thinking about working with us is to keep an open mind about the profession and the kinds of roles you might be suited to.
“Nothing is off limits: you might not have pictured yourself working in our Securities Division, for example, however there is every reason, as a woman, to be able to thrive in this area of the bank. In fact, over the past five years we have increased the number of women in trading seats in the Securities Division each year in EMEA.
“Whichever part of the organisation you decide to join, whether it’s the Technology division or the Securities division, we’ll make sure that you’re supported throughout your career and given every opportunity to progress.
“We’ve been working hard to get this message out there. This includes talking to female undergraduates and A-Level students to let them know about the kinds of opportunities that are available to them at Goldman Sachs.
“We hold a series of insight days throughout the year where we have women in senior positions talking about their experiences in the industry and the work they do.”
How much progress has there been?
“We are starting to see positive results across the organisation, including at a senior level where the talent pool is gradually expanding.
“We recently promoted 30 female employees into managing director (MD) roles across our European business, out of 109 promotions at that level. Continuing to promote women into these senior roles importantly provides us with a growing bench of role models for more junior employees.
“While there is certainly further to go in achieving the balance of female and male employees that we want, we’ve taken some important strides towards achieving this goal in recent years.”
We also spoke to two recent joiners at Goldman Sachs to find out more about the opportunities for female graduates at the bank.
The Securities Division Analyst
Mini Lehman works in the Securities Division at the bank. She studied Engineering Mathematics at Bristol University before joining the firm in 2013 following an internship.
How have you found coming to work on a trading floor as a woman?
“You can read all the books about banking that you want or watch The Wolf of Wall Street, but the reality is very different.
“There is a perception of the trading floor as this aggressive, macho environment; while it can be loud and frantic at times, the idea that you have to be male to fit in here simply isn’t true.
“While there may be more men working in senior positions within the division, at my level there is a fairly even split between male and female analysts and associates.”
What advice would you give to other young women thinking about working in investment banking?
“If you’re at all concerned about how you might fit in within an investment bank, my advice would be to go and do an internship.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the experience and it allowed me to realise that much of what is written about the industry simply doesn’t match the reality.
“For example, many of my fellow interns came from what you might think of as non-traditional subject backgrounds for banking such as History, English and Drama, so there really is a place for everyone.
“It’s also a very meritocratic industry: regardless of who you are, if you work hard and do well, you’ll be rewarded for it.
“If you find the idea of working in investment banking appealing, don’t let anything put you off – just go for it.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
“I work in the Emerging Market Equities team within the Securities Division. Our focus is predominantly countries with significant macro-economic or political issues so the conversations I have with my clients tend to be pretty interesting.
“The thing I love about this job is that you wake up not knowing what’s going to happen over the course of the day.
“You can usually predict around 20 or 30 per cent, but most of the day will depend on what’s going on in the world and how the markets react on the back of this.”
The Technology Analyst
Precious Kaijuka studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Loughborough University. She joined the bank in 2013 as a technology analyst in the Middleware Engineering team.
What’s it like being in the minority in your profession as a woman?
“Having studied traditionally ‘male’ subjects all the way through school and university, it’s something I’ve always been used to and not something I spend too much time thinking about.
“I was the only girl in my A-Level computing class in Kenya and one of just six female students out of 150 on my course at university.
“There are four women in my team out of a total of 15, so the female mix is actually a lot higher than I’ve been used to.
“The work environment here at Goldman Sachs is very inclusive – there isn’t a uniform culture people have to conform to, so there’s no way it can be described as male dominated.”
What advice would you offer young women thinking about a potential technology career?
“Despite what you might have heard, there’s no reason at all why women can’t have a successful career in a technology or engineering role.
“Technology is one of the largest areas of the investment bank and therefore offers one the widest selections of graduate roles.
“You don’t necessarily need to have come from a Computer Science or Engineering discipline to work here and there are opportunities for people with all manner of backgrounds and skill-sets.
“Ultimately your gender will have no impact whatsoever on your ability to perform your role, so it’s really just a question of believing in your ability and letting your work do the talking.”
Can you tell us a bit about the work you do?
“The role of the Middleware Engineering team is to develop new software products and solutions that will support the main revenue generating areas of the bank, helping then to trade and perform more efficiently.
“A big part of my role involves delivering test frameworks for new products in development and to implement risk management practices to ensure that this software functions as well as it possibly can for the people who use it each day.
“What I really like about my job is that it allows me to have a real impact and to take ownership over certain projects. The best part is seeing a product that I’ve worked on being put to use across different areas the bank.”