Women Technologists on Wall Street

A study entitled “The Under-Leveraged Talent Pool,” published by the Center for Work-Life Policy’s Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, demonstrates that women technologists play a key role in the tech platforms that drive international finance.

Women in this field are outstanding communicators and crack problem solvers whose core ability to create synergies between finance and technology is enormously important in these highly collaborative work environments. Eliza–a senior director in software development at a Wall Street firm–is a case in point. In a focus group discussion, she talked about being drawn to tech in finance because it demanded double acumen – understanding the business, and understanding cutting-edge, “cool” technology.

Wall Street is ahead of the curve when it comes to hiring women technologists: 34% of new hires in tech in the financial sector are female, compared to 25% in the tech sector overall. Women in tech in finance love their jobs and feel rewarded for their efforts, yet all too often their careers become stalled. They identify three on-going challenges: 

  • Extreme jobs and a 24/7 workplace culture: 64% work more than 50 hours a week and 86% work across multiple time zones – a fact which compromises evenings and weekends.
  • Mysterious careers: 55% find career paths “hard to fathom” and don’t know how to move up.
  • Lack of hands-on help: 51% lack mentors and 70% lack sponsors. In focus group discussion there was much talk about the paucity of female role models.

Targeted support on these fronts could make all the difference, enabling women in tech roles on Wall Street to build on their impressive strengths and assets.

This is beginning to happen. Financial firms understand the challenges these careers pose for women. In the words of Gail Fierstein, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, “It’s a tall order–you have to manage, be technical, understand the demand and meet your client’s needs.” And these firms increasingly recognize that they can’t afford a female brain drain in their technology divisions, particularly at a time when Wall Street is going through wrenching changes. As showcased in this study, a number of financial firms are developing an exciting array of cutting-edge initiatives to advance the careers of women technologists.

To share some examples: “Mobility” at Credit Suisse is a pioneering collaboration between HR leaders and the women’s network to create powerful momentum in women’s careers. Goldman Sachs’s “Women in Technology (WIT) Network” provides an array of savvy skill-building, mentoring and leadership development opportunities at all career stages. Merrill Lynch’s innovative “Open Mentoring” is a “matchmaking” program that uses detailed data sets to help ensure that mentors and protégées have good chemistry. And just this fall NYSE Euronext launched a Women’s Forum that will provide a vehicle for critical career mentoring.

Has your company created special career development opportunities for women technologists? Have these programs made a difference?