Feb. 26, 2016

'Now is the time for women to pursue careers in male-dominated industries'

Five female finance professionals at Haskayne panel event share their career experiences
Students and mentors at the Haskayne School of Business listen to five panelists at the Women in Finance event on Jan. 28 hosted by the Haskayne Career Centre and the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business.
Students and mentors at the Haskayne School of Business listen to five panelists at the Women in Fin Anna Michalska

True to popular belief, finance still stands as a male-dominated industry. The Haskayne School of Business Career Centre and the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business (CCAL) took action to revitalize women’s interest in finance by hosting the second annual Women in Finance panel event on Jan. 28.

This event also launched the new CCAL finance mentoring stream, which will work to connect students with strong leaders actively working in the finance industry.

“Only 15 per cent of senior leadership roles in my company are filled by women, the other 85 per cent are men,” says Sue Derlago, wealth and senior investment adviser at National Bank, one of the panelists. “I work at a brokerage firm, and the perception is that it is very cutthroat which makes a lot of women shy away from it.”

Career-focused event brings in panel of five female finance professionals

Kimberley Dart, manager, Haskayne School of Business Career Centre, says, “When I learned that women were under-represented in financial roles, it inspired me to create a career-focused event so that our students could hear first-hand from industry professionals.

"We hosted the first Women in Finance panel in 2015, and the career centre is excited to make this an annual event.”

More than 60 female and male Haskayne students and mentors came to hear the five esteemed panelists speak about their experiences in the male-dominated field. The panelists included: Andrea McLane VP, Commercial at RBC Financial Services & Energy; Ashley Innes, director of Strategic Origination at BP; Ruth Summers, senior analyst at Encana; Rebecca Giffen, director of investments at Alberta Enterprise; and Sue Derlago, Wealth and Senior Investment adviser at National Bank.

'In the workplace, women and men have struggles — they are just different'

Although the panel of women agreed that they have all encountered difficulties being female in the industry, they stand united and say that staying true to themselves has been pivotal in creating a successful career.

“In the workplace, women and men have struggles — they are just different,” says Summers. “However, being female in a male-dominated industry makes you stand out and people remember you. If you are equal in every way — professional, driven, and work hard — you will get ahead.”

More awareness now for workplace equality in male-dominated industries 

The panelists did not sugarcoat the high demands of the industry. “You soon realize that you can have it all, but just not all at the same time. When you have a demanding career, you make those conscious decisions of when to have a family,” says Giffen.

“Career-oriented women realize that there is no such thing as work-life balance,” says McLane. “I like to call it ‘consequence management’ — as long as I can handle the consequences of my choices — working late, travelling, or having the kids go to Dad with their problems — that is my choice.”

They also stressed that women have a tendency to underestimate themselves. The answer is simple: Don’t. They encouraged all individuals, both men and women, that finding a mentor is invaluable to their career.

“Things are changing. There is more awareness to equality in the workplace. Things that happened 20 years ago would never happen now," says Summers. "Now is the time for women to pursue these careers in male-dominated industries."