The graduate recruitment teams at the major banks are committed to diversity in their work force, across all demographics. However, like many industries, a particular challenge has been the stubborn gap in the numbers of male and female graduates entering the world of finance. To ensure you stand out from the crowd and have the best chance of entering this sector, we've assembled our top tips.
The first barrier to entering finance is undoubtedly created by the lack of confidence female undergraduates can feel. Evidence is mounting that women generally feel they are underperforming, underqualified and undeserving of their successes and this is affecting their choices from the start.
This lack of confidence, coupled with a lack of role models and erroneously perceived stereotypes which pervade the industry, has a particular impact on finance, more so than other industries. It can mean that female undergraduates fall prey to phrases such as:
- “Banking looks quite difficult”
- “You probably need to be top of the class for finance”
- “I don’t know anyone in banking”
- “I didn’t go to the right school”
- “It’s pure luck I got that Spring Week”
- “I’ll apply to one internship and see what happens. If I don’t get it, I’m obviously not good enough”
However, if you’ve ever felt that niggling black worm of doubt, you’re not alone. The good news is that you’re almost certainly wrong. Women are capable of becoming astronauts, CEOs, record-breakers and leaders, but it seems they’re incapable of accurately assessing their own performance. If you are interested in the fantastic world of finance, then you have the ability, you just need to make sure the recruiters know it.
For an aspiring banker, university holidays are no longer holidays. They're a chance to gain a march on your competitors
Higher up the pay scale, studies are showing that women are missing out on top promotions due to a narrower network, and this trend is also affecting graduates. Male students are just more likely to attend networking events than women which makes them more likely to apply and achieve a graduate offer.
The good news is that major institutions are trying to overcome this barrier with female-targeted events – as do we with our own Bright Network: Women in Finance - to help top employers find the best female students and welcome those students with a more female-friendly atmosphere and female role models.
These events are your chance to get ahead by finding out as much as you can about the roles, divisions, sectors and application systems.
Even if you attend every event with every bank on campus, seek out the female targeted events as well, they're there to help you. Furthermore, check out our other advice articles on how to network effectively and hopefully these events will become a chance for you to build mentorships and connections as well.
Learn more about the networking with Bright Network's advice.
3. Relevant experience
There is a trend amongst undergraduates for female students to have less experience, often as a consequence of the two paragraphs above. This can be an obvious disadvantage so it’s important to amass as much experience as other candidates.
The way to do this is to apply for Spring Week internships in autumn of your first term to secure for the subsequent Easter, and Summer Internships between your second and third years. For an aspiring banker, university holidays are no longer holidays. They are opportunities to gain a march on your competitors.
It is important to state clearly your achievements and strengths on your applications
If you've missed the boat for first year internships, don't worry, there are alternatives. Alongside structured internships at bulge bracket banks, you should be aiming for committee positions in Finance Societies, financial blogging, financial modules and experiences at smaller firms and banks in the off-cycle. Pinpoint boutiques in London and apply speculatively, even if you don't achieve them, the research is good training.
You need to prove 100% commitment to the industry and prove that you can speak the language, cope with the challenges and gain the skills.
4. Your strengths
Each undergraduate is unique with different strengths and weaknesses. It is vital to play to your individual strengths to not only capitalise on your advantages, but also to differentiate yourself from your thousands of competitors. It is important to state clearly your achievements and strengths on your applications and CV. This ties into the first point about confidence, female CVs are much less likely to point out their achievements than male CVs.
If you achieved a good grade, a great result in a work experience project, a success in your favourite society, you need to say so.
It's also important to isolate your weaker areas. If you find yourself falling down on psychometric tests then you need to spend more time practising them (we have some top tips for improving your scores too). Or, perhaps you can't get past the first online application - your careers services will be able to spot check your CV for you and help you find good examples for the competency questions.
Banking is a competitive industry, and deservedly so. However, it is an industry with a vested interest in hiring and developing female graduate talent - the benefits are obvious to the City - so as a Bright Network member you should have every chance of following a great financial career you'll love.
Discover finance graduate opportunities
Ready to take the first step? Take a look at the latest finance graduate programmes available to apply for today.