photo of Karen Bertaux

Women in Finance: Influencing Change in Leadership Roles

“When we close our eyes and picture what a CEO looks like, too often the picture that comes to mind is that of a man,” said Deborah Gillis, CEO of Catalyst, a nonprofit pushing to improve corporate gender diversity.

At this year’s REVOLUTION 2016 users conference, AvidXchange CFO Karen Bertaux hosted “Leading Change as a Woman in Finance,” a presentation on women in leadership roles. In today’s blog, we’ll talk about women in senior management roles in finance, as well as Bertaux’s personal journey as a financial professional.

First, some statistics. Research by the United Nations shows that 75% of all men and 50% of all women participate in the workforce. There are more women in the workforce now than ever before, which means more women are earning degrees in accounting and finance. Professional women in finance are in a great position to influence change and create opportunities for future leaders.

It’s no surprise that women work longer hours than men when unpaid work is accounted for, but the balance is slowly shifting. In 1994, only 38% of the world’s countries offered 14 weeks or more of maternity leave. Paternity leave was even lower, at 27%. As of 2013, those numbers have risen to 53% and 48% respectively.  This shift is key in providing more opportunities to men and women in the workforce.

While the US financial services industry employs many women, we’re still a bit behind when it comes to leadership positions. For example, 63% of accounts and auditors are women. 53.4% of financial managers and 40.5% of financial analysts are women. The number of women drops off substantially when it comes to leadership positions. According to the Grant Thornton Internation Business Report, women hold 25% of senior management roles in the global financial services industry, and only 18% of global CFO roles.

Five Qualities that Make Women Great Leaders

According to Forbes article, “Why Women Make Better Leaders,” there are five qualities that make women great leaders:

  • Vision
  • Maturity
  • Empathy
  • Perspective
  • Communication

In “Women in Finance: The Soft Side as a Hard Asset,” author Brett Steenbarger speaks to how these qualities are reflected in good management. “Business leadership is closely tied to such factors as sensitivity to employee mood, strong relationships with employees, and the communication of a positive vision,” said Steenbarger. “Conversely, poor management is associated with high degrees of task focus in the absence of a caring touch.”

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