Women are making history as President-elect Joe Biden organizes his administration. Biden has nominated women for some Cabinet positions, including ex-Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first woman ever to hold the post.
Starting with Kamala Harris as the first woman to become vice president, Biden has chosen women for prominent leadership roles. Such historic advancements reflect the progress women have made across society over several decades, and it’s important that momentum continues for them in high-profile leadership positions throughout industries and government, says Allison Nolan, founder and managing director of Athena International Management Limited and author of the upcoming book, Madam Chair.
Expanding The Opportunities For Women
“We need to make sure we are maintaining and expanding the opportunities for women going forward,” Nolan says. “We can’t let the role of women in leadership, in finance and on boards, slip down the priority list.
“This whole pandemic has been like pressing the reset button as a culture. We can’t let gender equality fall by the wayside.”
Yellen’s nomination is a proud moment for women working in the financial and economic sectors, Nolan says, noting that women leaders in her industry have inspired trust and shown steadiness in these challenging times. Hedge funds managed by women outperformed those run by men during the first four months of the year.
“While some industries such as finance lack progress in fixing gender imbalance, women have proven to be exceptional in leadership roles,” Nolan says. “Female managers often have a better approach to managing risk.
“But it still holds true in many industries that it’s harder for a woman to be promoted to a top position. Persistence and a passion to excel at the highest level are as vital as abilities and skills.”
5 Tips For Women Pursuing Leadership Roles
Nolan offers tips to women about pursuing leadership roles in the financial industry:
Plan The Next Career Move
Men tend to have a very specific vision for the progression of their careers, whereas women, Nolan says, “often don’t plan well in advance about what role to take on next.” This lack of clarity or indecisiveness can hold women back on the career track. “Be clear to the company about what you’re striving for,” she adds. “Compared to men, women often are hesitant to self-promote. Men generally overestimate their ability and performance, while women generally underestimate theirs and consequently don’t visualize a detailed direction on a career path.”
“What many women do is hope that their talents, experience, and recommendations will shine through and be rewarded with a higher position,” Nolan says. “But part of the problem has been they have not consistently been recognized and rewarded, so their confidence has flagged. Confidence means standing up for your achievements, owning what you don’t know, and having the courage to ask questions and the courage to fail. Failing is simply a step on the path to success. Be conscious of what you want to change and grow into that better version of yourself.”
One reason the financial industry is changing quickly is because of digital transformation. “It’s much easier to be nimble,” Nolan says. “With everything online, it’s opening up opportunities for women to take on different kinds of roles, one reason being that women are very good at juggling multiple tasks and picking up new things quickly. These abilities can help them become the translators between the old ways and the online ways of doing business.”
Expand Your Network
“If you build relationships with colleagues in other divisions, it’ll give you a support network you can turn to for career advice,” Nolan says. “It also helps you do your job better, because you are better connected to the wider business.”
Have A Mentor
“This is invaluable,” Nolan says. “A mentor can give you the perspective of the big picture, keep your eye on the goal, and help develop the skill of dealing with people, which is such a key aspect of any executive leadership position.”
“Don’t strive for perfection,” Nolan says. “Strive to be prepared, to keep progressing, and to be you.”
About Allison Nolan
Allison Nolan is the founder and managing director of Athena International Management Limited, an award-winning boutique governance provider offering experienced independent directors to the international alternative investment funds community. She is the author of the upcoming book, Madam Chair, which discusses the transformation that enhanced gender diversity and inclusion can bring to the hedge fund industry. Nolan has been a director of regulated entities since 2002 and has served as a full-time professional independent director since 2005. She serves as the Chair of the Education Committee of the Alternative Investment Managers Association in the Cayman Islands and has contributed to several legal journals and industry publications.