News and Announcements

Good Intentions Not Enough to Crack Male Stronghold in Capital Markets

Report from Catalyst and Women in Capital Markets Looks Towards Solutions

TORONTO—Despite more than a decade of concerted advocacy and good intentions by the industry, women continue to struggle to break through the senior leadership ranks in Canadian Capital Markets—and into the industry. According to Women and Men in Canadian Capital Markets: An Action Plan for Gender Diversity, released today at a Women in Capital Markets luncheon, Catalyst found that the informality of male-dominated networks, the fact that poor managerial skills are too easily overlooked and the persistent stigma around work-life balance continue to impact women’s advancement.
The action plan guide provides a solution-based roadmap to address these challenges, as well as to bridge the gap between senior leaders’ intentions of enhanced people management and gender diversity, and how these are perceived by men and women in the industry.
The guidebook, commissioned by Women in Capital Markets (WCM) and conducted by Catalyst, finds the following:

  • Women in the industry are excited about and committed to their careers, yet some industry leaders still hold perceptions that women are less committed, lack initiative or do not have the mettle for leadership.
  • The majority of men at all levels are able to point to sponsors that have supported their careers, while women struggle to identify sponsors or mentors who can help them successfully navigate their careers in Capital Markets—resulting in slower advancement for women and fewer women role models at the top.
  • A "badge of honour," face-time culture creates unsustainable expectations that keep some talented, high performing women—and men—from staying in the industry.
  • While the industry has made increasing efforts to attract more women, there is a gap between Human Resources’ intentions to drive gender diversity and talent management and how these policies are understood by both male and female professionals.

“Good intentions are there; however, creating a breakthrough requires intentionality and commitment to change. Leaders, talent managers and professionals need to renew action plans to close the gaps as it is costing the Canadian Capital Markets the ability to genuinely attract, advance, and hold on to the most talented women,” said Deborah Gillis, Senior Vice President, Membership & Global Operations, Catalyst. “With this guidebook, we hope to help companies maximize the intake of the best and brightest talent, increase the engagement and productivity of both men and women and promote long-term business success.”
Capital Markets benchmarking data show that women are just a fraction of the industry with virtually no gains in the past decade. Compared to the greater financial services industry where women account for 62 percent of workers, their representation in Capital Markets is 23 percent of Analysts and Associates. In relation to the proportion of women being hired, they are vastly underrepresented in senior Capital Markets position roles where 17 percent of Vice Presidents and Directors are women and only 10 percent are Managing Directors.
“It is imperative that banks in the Canadian Capital Markets industry create a bold new action plan,” said Martha Fell, CEO, Women in Capital Markets. “To be most effective, this plan must inject extra scrutiny to ensure fairness in decision-making, zero-tolerance for poor management and accountability for leadership behaviour.”
The guidebook features innovative, game-changing practices and strategies from leading companies that can help create a breakthrough and enhance the representation of women in the industry. Recommendations include:

  • Generate buy-in for the business case for gender diversity among all employees: Creating a gender-diverse and inclusive industry results in better engagement, retention and profitability. Promote the vital link between gender diversity and business results amongst all employees.
  • Test assumptions about women’s abilities or commitments to their careers: Invest in high-potential women via sponsorship, networks and programs.
  • Invite men at all levels to co-develop the strategy: Get men’s perspectives and participation for lasting success. Increase men’s awareness and trust to advocate for women in leadership positions.
  • Implement extra scrutiny at critical decision-making junctures, such as during hiring, delegation of assignments and promotions: Reduce the potential for unconscious stereotyping and ensure that women get their fair share of opportunities to be tested and trusted.
  • Adopt zero-tolerance toward inadequate people management: Hold individuals accountable for talent results and insist leaders develop their talent stewardship, sponsorship and mentorship skills.
  • Promote the industry to a broader pool of women, and establish gender-neutral recruitment and selection methods: Build awareness and promote the benefits of a career in Capital Markets for women through informal relationships, traditional media channels, and partnerships with universities.
  • Engage senior leaders as role models for work-life effectiveness and valuing results over face-time and long hours: Optimizing team-based work processes that meet high performance industry standards and employee performance and life needs.
  • Recognize the high cost of turnover and implement career path flexibility as a core element for retaining top talent: Develop progressive and standardized leave polices and stay connected to women on career breaks and create ways for them to re-enter the industry.

“Women in Capital Markets has been advocating for the growth and advancement of women in the industry for over 15 years with a particular emphasis on mentoring, professional development and networking,” said Ms. Fell. “Yet, until the banks and firms make a genuine strategic and cultural shift, I’m afraid our numbers from top to bottom will continue to languish.”
 Four separate focus groups were held between October 5 and October 19, 2011, in which WCM and Catalyst invited 21 VP and Director men, 23 VP and Director women, 33 Talent Management professionals working in diversity and/or human resources, and 22 Group Heads, CEOs, Vice Chairs and Executive Vice Presidents in Capital Markets.
 Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, and India, and more than 500 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women's advancement with the Catalyst Award.
 Women in Capital Markets is a non-profit organization that aims to support and advance female leaders in business, foster accountability for diversity in the industry, and recognize leaders who have contributed significantly to the advancement of women in the capital markets. More information is available at