Happy International Women’s Day -
But is it time to celebrate yet?
International Women’s Day has been celebrated worldwide on March 8th every single year since the United Nations adopted the holiday in 1975. Although it is only an official federal holiday in a handful of countries, almost every country in the world celebrates it in some way. In Berlin, March 8th is an official state holiday, for the first time since East and West were reunited - the holiday was celebrated in the German Democratic Republic after 1946.
On this day, it’s important to reflect on the progress that has been made in the finance and insurance industries, as well as the areas that need improvement. Let’s start with the good news: In several countries in the world, women now make up close to half of the workforce in the finance and insurance industries. According to data from Catalyst, in countries like Finland and Germany, women make up about 58.8% and 50.3% of the financial and insurance services workforce, respectively. However, there were several European countries where this percentage was under 50%. Switzerland, for example, was among the lowest, where only 41.4% of the workforce in these industries consists of women.
Why are countries like Finland and Germany towards the top of the heap? There are many reasons. First, these countries offer affordable childcare options, family-friendly workplace models and paternal leave, all things integral to a successful working mom. Secondly, Germany passed a quota law in 2015 mandating that supervisory boards of large companies must have a female membership quota of 30%. In the Spring of 2018, human resources consultancy group Russell Reynolds reported that the total number of women on the supervisory boards of the largest companies in Germany, such as Lufthansa, Daimler and Bayer, was around 34%.
Often times, when people think of the finance industry, they only picture men in suits and ties. These statistics prove that the finance workforce is more female than people think. However, this does not apply to management positions in finance. Although the quota law is 100% a step in the right direction, it does not apply to management board seats. According to the German Institute of Economic Research (DIW), that percentage is currently at about 8%. The DIW also reported, that although 2005-2015 saw tremendous growth in women in decision-making positions in finance, in the past 3 years, this growth has essentially reached a standstill.
What can be done to kick-start the percentage growth of women in top-level positions in finance? For one, women in finance need more visibility and more opportunities to network with other women. At fintexx - women in finance, we achieve this through our fintexx women dinners at the Handelsblatt Bankengipfel in Frankfurt and at the Fintech Forum in Paris, all of which were created with this purpose in mind. In addition to this, opportunities for the next generation of women with tech and finance backgrounds need to be provided. And perhaps almost most importantly, successful women already in these industries need to be supported and strengthened. At fintexx - women in finance, we have made these things our main mission and life’s work.
Founded by Managing Director at finleap, Dr. Carolin Gabor, in 2016, fintexx - women in finance was established to bring together women from the finance industry, and in order to bring them together, we make sure we are not only discussing the challenges women face in this industry, but also creating bonds which are leading to real business relations, At the end of the day, what’s most important to us is that we empower women and their businesses.
This year’s International Women’s Day being a state holiday in Berlin is certainly a milestone for us. It’s definitely a small step forward, having only an impact on the people of Berlin, but it sheds a light on a very important topic. And that, we can celebrate.