Women in Finance: Dynamic Business Leaders Shaping the Future

6 months ago / by Melanie Fourie
Women in Finance
Abigail Johnson, Chairman & CEO of Fidelity Investments, is currently ranked the most successful woman in finance by Forbes.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Women in Finance: There remains a lack of women in top-level jobs in the financial sector. However, the figures are progressively improving as data starts to reveal the worth females bring to organizations, making this a perfect moment for women to enter the financial sector.

It’s no secret that women continue to face discrimination in the workplace and struggle to enter sectors that are traditionally populated by men. This absence of representation is especially visible in the financial sector. Despite the fact that women make up almost half of the workforce, just around 15% hold upper-level positions in the banking industry. It was revealed in 2019 by the Deloitte Centre for Financial Services that just six out of 107 US financial institutions were led by women CEOs.

So Why the Gender Gap?

As previously noted, the numbers demonstrate that women do have an opportunity to enter male-dominated fields, but that advancing to positions of leadership is still difficult for them to do. Exactly why does this keep occurring? No easy solution exists, but let’s dive into this complex subject and see what it implies for young women entering the field of finance today.

Though diversity in recruiting is becoming more of a concern, just 4.9% of partners at VC companies are female. Only ten percent of private equity employees are in managerial or executive positions.
More males than women enrol in finance courses in universities, and an even smaller fraction of women, about 16%, teach at these institutions.

Another obstacle is the ethos of the financial sector. The stereotype banker is portrayed as pushy, mercantile, and dominant—attributes that are more often associated with men. Therefore, females in finance may feel pressure to adapt in order to succeed in a mostly male industry, which may be taxing on their mental well being.

Also, when women do reach the upper echelons of an organization, they often find that they are given more responsibility and less leeway than males, and that their contributions are seldom recognized or rewarded. As a result, they are more likely to typically feel more stressed out than males. This is a problem outside the office, as many women feel they must choose between their careers and their families, or try to manage everything as much as they can, making it challenging to maintain healthy work-life harmony.

A 2016 poll by Oliver Wyman of 850 financial services pertaining to employees throughout the globe, including millennials in finance, revealed that nothing had improved in the patriarchal working culture during the preceding 30 years. Even though the number of females working in finance is on the increase, the consulting firm’s 2020 research on this issue indicates that this figure is still not significant enough. Even though overt sexism has diminished since the early 21st century, gender norms and implicit prejudice remain pervasive problems in modern society. 

The Women Leading the Pack 

Regardless of the challenges women still encounter, research consistently shows that groups with female members in finance do better overall. According to research published by HEC Paris, private equity groups with at least one female on the team beat those with just men. To that end, we’ve compiled a brief round up of some of the most successful women in finance and leadership who are beating the odds of the industry’s gender disparities.

Although the global economy was shaken in the second year of a pandemic, the females listed below who made Forbes’ 2021 ranking of the world’s most powerful women in finance were able to persevere and fortify some of the globe’s greatest banks and financial organizations. They are using their positions of power to affect the global economy! 

Abigail Johnson, Chairman & CEO, Fidelity Investments 

Since 2014, Johnson has held the positions of president and chief executive officer at Boston-based Fidelity Investments and chairman at Fidelity International.
The 59-year-old comes from an ancient Massachusetts family. Edward Johnson II, her grandpa, started Fidelity in 1946 with a single worker. Edward “Ned” Johnson III, her father, passed away in March at the age of 91 after building the family business to great heights and then handing it on to Abigail.

Fidelity now employs over 45,000 people in locations all over the globe. The company’s mission is to reduce the cost and complexity of investing for regular people. To her employees, Abby Johnson is a stickler for that, but she also has her own vision for the company’s future: “Always aspire to be better. As well as you may be doing, there is always more to do.

Her plan includes a special emphasis on appealing to young, female investors. While still in high school, she started working at Fidelity as a call centre operator. This experience taught her the value of providing excellent customer service, and she now uses a combination of technology and human insight to encourage investor participation in the company’s affairs.

In her opinion, women are crucial to Fidelity’s success both as clients and as investment managers.
Abigail Johnson, in 2015, established Fidelity’s Boundless project, which aims to inspire more young women to pursue professions in the financial services industry. To investigate the differences in how men and women see the industry, she has hired research teams.

Johnson earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and his BA in Art History in 1984. She began her career with the management and information technology consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton, where she met her future spouse, the businessman Christopher J McKown, with who she currently has 2 grown kids.
Johnson spent 26 years at the helm of the family business, first in a series of low-profile posts before ascending to the top. Before being CEO of Fidelity Investments aged of 52, she studied business dynamics extensively. She has made her mark on the company since 2014, when she relocated the headquarters from the conventional Devonshire Street to the innovative Seaport neighbourhood of Boston.

Although she is listed as the 6th most influential woman in the world by Forbes, Abigail Johnson has managed to maintain her modesty. Such as the a lot of us, she travels on commercial airlines and waits in line to pick up her rental vehicle, and she donates to various art initiatives and charities like a youth centre, a public TV and radio channel, and a homeless shelter in Boston.

Ana Botín, Executive Chair, Banco Santander

As of September 2014, Ana Botn has served as Banco Santander’s Executive Chairman. Santander is among the most profitable and effective financial institutions in the world today, with over 148 million clients in Europe, North America, and Latin America.

Santander has been providing a median of over €1 billion per day to assist companies throughout the COVID crisis, and has helped over 6 million consumers via the granting of loan moratoria and other initiatives.
Santander’s online banking brand, Openbank, is currently the biggest online bank in Europe by holdings, and Santander has used its size and technical supremacy in payments to launch PagoNxt, all while Ana is at the helm.

On the other hand, Santander is one of the world’s leading lenders to renewable energy and an advocate for the United Nations’ Collective Commitment on Climate Action, both of which help facilitate the move to a greener economy.
Ana started her professional life in New York with JPMorgan. Santander hired her in 1988 to oversee the company’s growth in Latin America. Having started as the CEO of Banesto in Spain in 2002, she then moved on to lead Santander UK as CEO in 2010.

Ana serves on the boards of the Coca-Cola Company and the MIT CEO Advisory Board in addition to her role as President of the European Banking Federation. In addition to leading Empieza por Educar, the Spanish branch of Teach for All that prepares bright college grads for careers in education, she established and chairs the Fundación CyD, an organization that promotes the positive impact of Spain’s universities on economic and social growth. Ana has a Degree in Economics from Bryn Mawr College. 

 Jane Fraser, CEO, Citi

Jane Fraser leads Citi, the most multinational bank in the world. Citi provides services to millions of customers in over 160 different countries and jurisdictions. She makes history as the company’s first woman CEO.
After taking the helm at Citi in March 2021, Jane devised a multi-year plan to boost the company’s profits and prepare it for the challenges posed by the rapid development of the digital era. By updating systems, aiming for operational excellence, and putting money into Citi’s culture, the company hopes to alter its risk and control climate. With a focus on wealth management and personal banking in the United States, Jane is determined to make Citi the go-to bank for multinational corporations and a household name in the international banking sector.

Jane has worked with Citi for eighteen years, and during that time she has held many positions of leadership in both the company’s consumer and institutional divisions. She formerly served as Citi’s President and CEO of the Global Consumer Bank, where she oversaw the financial services company’s consumer operations in 19 countries. Even after being promoted to CEO, she continued to lead the company’s efforts to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

In 2004, Jane started working for Citi in the Corporate and Investment Banking department. From 2007 to 2009, Jane was the Global Head of Strategy and Mergers & Acquisitions at Citi, and from 2013 to 2014, she was the CEO of Citi Mortgage. From 2014 to 2015, she was the CEO of the U.S. Consumer and Commercial Bank and Global Mortgages, and from 2015 to 2019, she was the CEO of Citigroup Latin America.

Jane worked as a Partner at McKinsey & Company before she joined Citi. She began her career in the Mergers and Acquisitions division at Goldman Sachs in London before moving on to Asesores Bursátiles in the Spanish capital of Madrid. 

She  is a member of the Board of Directors for both the Business Roundtable and the Council on Foreign Relations. She is on the boards of the Economic Club of New York, the Stanford Global Advisory Board, and the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors. Jane has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Harvard University and a Master’s Degree in Economics from Cambridge University. 

Ho Ching, Director, Temasek Trust

After leaving her position as executive director and CEO of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Temasek Holdings, in October 2021, Ho Ching became a member of the board and chairman-designate of Temasek Trust. On April 1, 2022, Ho will replace S Dhanabalan as chairman of Temasek Trust; Dhanabalan will continue to serve on the board.

Temasek Holdings’ portfolio more than quadrupled under Ho’s leadership over her 17 years at the head, from SG$90 billion in 2004 to more than SG$300 billion as of early 2021. Temasek Holdings expanded its international investments into new areas including agriculture, technology, and real estate. Roughly 17 years ago, prospects in Singapore alone made up more than half of the firm’s portfolio; now, Singapore accounts for about 24 percent.

Temasek Trust was established by Temasek Holdings in 2007 to guarantee that all Temasek funds designated for charity across a variety of community programs are handled in a responsible and sustainable manner. Ho’s new position is a good match for her since she is actively involved in the philanthropic and community service sector, and she has a specific passion for issues pertaining to children’s health, education, and welfare.
After receiving her engineering degree, Ho started working for the Defense Ministry. Prior to joining Temasek Holdings in 2002, she served as president and CEO of Singapore Technologies Group, where she had worked since 1997. 

Adena Friedman, President & CEO, Nasdaq

On January 1, 2017, Adena Friedman joined the Board of Directors and assumed the role of President and CEO of Nasdaq. She offers over 20 years of experience in senior roles, and she is widely acknowledged with helping develop Nasdaq into a premier global exchange and technology solutions firm with offices on six continents.
Adena was President and COO of the firm from January 2016 until his appointment as CEO in January 2017. In that role, he oversaw all of the company’s business areas with an eye toward improving operational effectiveness, creating new products, and expanding the organization.

After helping lead The Carlyle Group to an initial public offering in May 2012 in her capacity as CFO and Managing Director, she returned to Nasdaq in 2014.
Adena was a pivotal part of the Nasdaq management team for nearly a decade before joining Carlyle. She held positions as diverse as CFO, director of corporate strategy, and head of the company’s data products division. Through her leadership, Nasdaq was able to successfully acquire INET, OMX, and the Philadelphia and Boston Exchanges. In 1993, she began her career at Nasdaq as an intern.

Adena’s tenure at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as a Class B director began in December 2018. In January of 2020, she will take her place on the Board of Directors of FCLTGlobal, a non-profit that studies methods to promote long-term investment. On July 1, 2020, Adena officially started serving on the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust. Her education includes a Bachelor of Arts  in political science from Massachusetts’ Williams College and an MBA from Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management.

Marianne Lake & Jennifer Piepszak, Co-CEOs, Consumer & Community Banking, JPMorgan Chase

Marianne Lake is a member of the JPMorgan Chase Operating Committee and serves as Co-CEO of Consumer & Community Banking (CCB). She shares responsibility for the whole CCB organization, which provides services to over 60 million American homes and 4 million American small companies.

Lake oversees the day-to-day operations of Payments, Lending, and Commerce, which includes Card Services, Home Lending, and Auto Finance, three of the most successful lending companies in the world.
Former Consumer Lending CEO from 2019 to April 2021, Lake has worked with the company for two decades. For the years 2013–2019, she served as the company’s CFO. In her role as CFO, she oversaw operations throughout the finance, business, data, and administration departments.

Lake spent the first 12 years of her career at the company working in the finance department, where she held positions such as CFO of Consumer & Community Banking (2009–2012) and Global Controller of the Investment Bank (2007–2009). Also, from 2004-2007, she oversaw the Corporate Finance division’s worldwide financial infrastructure and control projects.

She has previous experience from her time spent working in London at both Chase and J.P. Morgan. She has held positions as Chief Financial Officer for J.P. Morgan’s Credit Trading unit and Senior Financial Officer for Chase in the United Kingdom. Lake began her professional life as a chartered accountant in the London and Sydney headquarters of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Lake established the Women on the Move program and serves as the sponsor of the biggest employee Business Resource Group, the Women on the Move Interactive Network, on the firm’s Operating Committee.

Jennifer Piepszak is a member of the JPMorgan Chase Operating Committee and the Co-CEO of Consumer & Community Banking (CCB). She shares responsibility for the whole CCB organization, which provides services to over 60 million American homes and 4 million American small companies. Piepszak is in charge of the day-to-day operations of both Retail and Commercial Banking, as well as Wealth Management.

After graduating from college, Piepszak joined JPMorgan Chase, where he has remained for the last 28 years. Since May 2019, she has served as the company’s Chief Financial Officer, making decisions on the company’s finances, investments, and administration. Piepszak worked for CCB for seven years before becoming CFO, first as CEO of Card Services, then as CEO of Business Banking, and finally as CFO of Mortgage Banking.

For the first 17 years of her career at the company, Piepszak worked in the Corporate & Investment Bank in increasingly senior positions such as Controller for Global Equities and Prime Services, CFO and Controller for Proprietary Positioning Business and Principal Investments Management, and CFO for the Investment Bank Credit Portfolio and several Fixed Income markets businesses. Piepszak is a member of the boards of directors for the American Bankers Association and the United Way of New York City. 

Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO, TIAA

Duckett, in her role as CEO of TIAA, oversees an organization whose purpose is founded on financial inclusion and opportunity, two principles that she has championed throughout her professional life.
In 2021, Duckett joined TIAA after serving as CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, where she was responsible for the bank’s 50,000 workers and $600 billion in deposits. Previously, she served as the head of Chase Auto 

Finance and as the head of retail sales for Chase Mortgage. She had previously worked as Fannie Mae’s Director of Emerging Markets.
Her professional affiliations include the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs, the Business Council, the Business Roundtable, and the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board. Duckett also belongs to the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and the Executive Leadership Council.

In memory of her parents, Otis and Rosie Brown, she established the Otis and Rosie Brown Foundation to acknowledge and reward those who go above and beyond to improve the lives of others in their community. She has a deep desire to see minority groups succeed economically, educationally, and professionally.
Duckett was born in Texas, but she now resides in Connecticut with her spouse and kids. 

Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO, Asset Management, JPMorgan

With over $4 trillion in client assets and a two century history of serving as a trusted fiduciary to businesses, governments, and institutions as well as private individuals, JPMorgan Chase’s Asset & Wealth Management division, over which Mary Callahan Erdoes presides as CEO, is one of the largest and most prestigious in the world. 

Erdoes has been with the company for the last 25 years, during which time he has held several executive positions within Asset & Wealth Management and eventually became the company’s CEO in 2009. She is a member of the JPMorgan Chase Operating Committee, the company’s highest management team.
New York City’s Robin Hood Foundation has Erdoes on its board of directors. She has positions on the boards of both the Georgetown University, where she studied mathematics as an undergraduate, and the Harvard University, where she obtained her master’s degree in business administration.

Cathie Wood, Founder, CEO & CIO, Ark Invest

Cathie Wood started ARK, serves as its CEO, and oversees IT. In January 2014, Cathie filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as an investment advisor under the name ARK Investment Management LLC (“ARK”). 

Cathie is responsible for all investment choices as the Chief Investment Officer (“CIO”) and Portfolio Manager of ARK. Before joining ARK, Cathie was the chief investment officer (CIO) of Global Thematic Strategies at AllianceBernstein for twelve years. Previously, Cathie worked at Tupelo Capital Management, a hedge fund she co-founded and ran until joining Alliance Capital.

At Tupelo, she oversaw over $800 million in worldwide theme strategies in 2000. She spent eighteen years with Jennison Associates LLC in several roles including Chief Economist, Equity Research Analyst, Portfolio Manager, and Director before joining Tupelo Capital. 

She got her start in the business world as an assistant economist at The Capital Group in Los Angeles. In 1981, Cathie graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.S. in Finance and Economics.

Tokiko Shimizu, Executive Director, Bank of Japan

As of 1987, Ms. Shimizu has been employed at the Bank of Japan. Since July 2016, she has been the Bank of Japan’s General Manager for Europe and Chief Representative in London. She is presently in charge of investigating the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) economies and financial situations.

Shimizu has extensive banking experience, having previously served as the branch’s general manager at the Takamatsu location (2010-2012). Aside from her current position, she has held a number of others at the Bank of Japan, all of which dealt with foreign affairs and the country’s financial markets. She served in the position of International Department’s Deputy Director-General for Asian Affairs. Having been formed in 1882, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) selected Shimizu as its first female executive director in 2020. Shimizu will serve as one of the bank’s 6 executive directors for a duration of four years, during which time she will be responsible for monitoring operations and conducting economic research.
Shimizu earned her Master of Arts in International Policy Studies at Stanford University and her Bachelor of Arts in Urban Engineering at the University of Tokyo.