As I attended my first meetings of the Colby Consulting Group and Colby Student Investment Association in the fall, I couldn’t help but notice a pattern in the group. I was surrounded by “finance bros.” But where were the finance girls? Although both clubs have female presidents/co-presidents, a shocking majority of the attendees were male. Maybe the disparity only appeared in those meetings. Or, maybe male members are more likely to show up. Whether they hold true or not, my observations got me thinking. After some research, I found that this pattern continues across the country. Not only are women more likely to be intimidated by personal finance, but women are also drastically under-represented in finance executive roles.
A Merrill Lynch study found that 61 percent of women would rather talk about dying than talk about money. As hyperbolic as it sounds, this statistic is staggering and frankly worrisome.
Other studies have revealed additional telling statistics; In 2021, Fidelity reported that only 14 percent of women say they know a lot about saving and investing, and 47 percent say that, if given $25,000 to invest, they would know what to do. However, when women do invest, they outperform men.
According to the study, this can be attributed to women sticking to their “buy and hold” method rather than attempting to outwit the market. So, why don’t women invest more? It comes down to a lack of confidence and conversations about personal finance.
Money is taboo, especially for women. The finance industry often seems as if it was created by men, for men. Society tells us that it’s not our job. We shouldn’t think about it. And when we do, we often feel as if we’re late to the game. To remedy this, we must normalize discussions about money: women helping women understand personal finances.
The idea of finance being a man’s world extends to careers in finance. Women account for less than 10 percent of senior roles in venture and private equity firms. At top business schools, only 16 percent of finance faculty are women. At financial service firms, only 22 percent of leadership roles are held by women. There are a few factors that can help to explain this. First, women in finance have few role models in the historically male-dominated field. With no one to pave the way, advancing in these fields appears more challenging. A lack of academic mentorship, illustrated by the business school faculty statistic, can also hinder women who are entering the field.
As a response, many firms have “women-friendly” programs, like mentorship plans and internships for women. Some business schools have tried to address this disparity, such as Rutgers Business School’s Center for Women in Business. Nonprofits like Girls Who Invest introduce students to the financial sector through various internships, intensive programs, and networking opportunities. However, some attribute the disparity to a sexist atmosphere.
An Oliver Wyman study found that unconscious bias and gender-role expectations are still very much at play in financial institutions. The aforementioned programs do not do much to confront deep-rooted sexist cultures. The road to gender equality in the labor market has been and will be, a very long one. However, women in C-suite roles are expected to rise by 7 percent by 2030. Additionally, 67 percent of women are investing outside of retirement plans, compared to 44 percent in 2018. The numbers don’t lie: women are on the rise.
~ Madison Keezer `26