This week I was fortunate enough to be one of the women at the Women in Finance Summit, here in Berlin. It was a one day event run by the DIW (Deutsche Institute für Wirtschaftsforschung) at the Deutsche Bank.

I was impressed by the calibre of the women there, I was there as a voluntary member of the advisory board for a small but impactful microfunding organisation. I was perceived by some bankers as the enemy but for business women we are far from that.


You see Goldrausch e.V is a microfinancing charity purely serving business women in Berlin. We lend relatively small amounts of money to get these entrepreneurs up and running in their businesses.  Many women see this as less intimidating than having to borrow a larger amount actually. Although we cannot offer as competitive rates of interest as our conventional counterparts, the banks, it seems that that is due to change very soon according to experts speaking and mingling.

So as the idiom goes, I was wearing a different hat, to the one that you usually see me in at the event.

You see, banks, particularly here in Germany are being forced to go through a fundamental and far-reaching transition which is in part being led by and influenced by women. The diversity of the world we live in and the economy that finance is fuelling is inhabited by 50% women but perhaps more interestingly 30% of the globe’s capital is in the ownership of women. So you see banks are learning that by mirroring the demographics they will be seen to be more approachable and trustworthy.

Quotas or Targets?

The topic of quotas came up, one that has fascinated me from the word go and there was a mixed bag of opinions on this one. Initially many women preferred to be promoted on merit not ‘just because they were a woman’ but as the momentum behind quotas started to take hold, it was apparent to both genders that quotas were not a replacement for internal targets. Instead or rather an accelerating factor moving leadership from lip service to action for the sake of reaching business goals.

Brenda D.H Trenowden who heads up the 30% Club in the UK was a charming mix of feminine, feisty and fabulous. She sadly pointed out that although the club has become more global than UK based, there was no interest at all from chairmen and CEOs in Germany.  Frankly, that sent a reality check through the room.

Diversity in Banking

Brenda talked about how the more advanced companies in terms of accepting and embracing diversity, were the ones that asked the toughest questions. The companies that did not hold up their hands in defeat if the numbers weren’t available but who insisted, probed and analysed until they got them. Like any other business policy, these facts and figures enable leadership to make more informed decisions about how to tackle diversity for the sake, not of social conformity, but for business success.

Wait in Line Ladies

Apparently, on average, female VPs spend on average 6 years longer ‘waiting, hoping’ to get promoted than men. In those 6 years other men get past the post because “She isn’t ready yet”. This isn’t helped by the fact that management training has faced cost cutting as a result of the global banking crisis. Inherent gender biases that we all have are being increasingly addressed with gender awareness training.

Mindset darling!

Ultimately though above and beyond quotas and internal targets, it is, of course, a shift in mindset that we are fundamentally in pursuit of.  That is deeply ingrained in the minds of each and every one of us, we as parents need to be great role models, as bosses we need to lead by example, our teachers, need to welcome girls into maths and boys into linguistics.

Disruption in the Financial Services Industry

In an industry being disrupted by fintech, it was disappointing to hear that the percentage of women in these startups was even lower than in conventional banks. Unfortunately, such providers were not afforded a place on the stage to provide any answers to what for me is a puzzling statistic.

The ugly

Another disappointing subsector was fund management with a shocking 84% of men on the boards and getting worse, not better. Women lose their jobs disproportionately more often than males int the same sector and yet in healthcare women represent 42%. One could argue that the sector has an impact but BHP – a mining company is on target to have 50% female workforce at all levels from mining to management by 2015. It’s doable with the right mindset, policies and persistence.

There is no silver bullet.

However work is being done in retention through returnship programmes. Other diversity measures discussed were insisting on having at least one female candidate for all job interviews and encouraging women to ask for a pay rise or ask for more responsibility. A greater focus on retention through returnship programmes was also showcased. Networking, mentoring but especially sponsorship were all seen to be absolutely essential.

Ultimately though, as Viviane Reding, Member of European Parliament and sensational speaker said, you have to “Rock the Boat” but ultimately if you’re not getting anywhere, take Brenda Trenowden’s advice and look after number one and take your talent elsewhere.

From flexibility to corporate entertaining to suit women

It was a fabulous summit and I hope that this has given you a sneak glimpse of what was discussed. I couldn’t resist a smile when they said that things that the guys take for granted like corporate events that appeal predominantly to the men, like rugby are not a good fit for women in finance. That’s one of the reasons why I chose Ascot for my next event, check it out if you want to nurture your career through networking.

The finance industry is not alone in it’s struggle to accommodate women on a level heading with the guys, but more about other industries in another post. Let me know if you are affected and how.

If you feel that the time is right to start networking more productively with other go getting women, then join us at Ascot.

Further Information…

  1. Article from the Handelsblatt about the event in German

Noch 80 Jahre bis zur Gleichberechtigung

2. TED Talk about Saudi women succeeding