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Breaking the glass ceiling: five prominent women in finance

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22 Feb 2016
This is the third in our series of blog posts on the topic of Women in Finance. View the second blog post, a Q&A with Finance Director Nives Feely, here.

Without a doubt, the finance industry has changed considerably in a short space of time. Seven years on from the global financial crisis of 2008, widespread recovery continues to take hold in economies around the world, helped by the introduction of new regulations and financial structures promoting emphasis on transparency and control

For a sector liable to change in a single moment, often at the mercy of the stock market and currency exchange, one thing has failed to show progress in the last decade – and that is the fact that women employed in senior finance roles continues to lag behind men.

Despite making up more than half the workforce in financial institutions, PWC data from 20 global markets show that women progress to hold only 19% of senior level roles. Board and CEO representation is even more disturbing, with women only occupying 14 percent of board seats and 2 percent of CEO positions.

As part of our Women in Finance blog series, we sought to take a look at the most influential and high-profile females in the finance sector, uncovering their progression up the ranks and learning how they came to be included amongst the most senior officials in the industry.

Name: Ruth Porat
Job title: Chief Financial Officer of Google
Born: Sale, Cheshire, United Kingdom

Born in Sale, Greater Manchester, Ruth Porat moved to the US with her family at a young age, where she attended Stanford University before gaining Masters degrees from the London School of Economics and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She originally started her career at Morgan Stanley in 1987, then left to follow President Robert F Greenhill to Smith Barney in 1993, before returning to Morgan Stanley in 1996 where she was later promoted to Chairman of Investment Banking and then Chief Financial Officer.

In 2013, while she was heavily tipped to be nominated as the next Deputy Secretary of the Treasury by President Barack Obama, it was reported by numerous media outlets that Ms Porat withdrew her name from the running due to improving conditions at Morgan Stanley following the economic downturn. In March 2015, it was announced that Ms Porat would join Google as its new Chief Financial Officer in May.

Name: Sharon Thorne
Job title: Managing Partner - Global at Deloitte
Born: Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom

In her role as Managing Partner Global of Deloitte UK, Sharon Thorne deals with international trade and investment for the Deloitte network’s clients and stakeholders. She is also a senior audit partner, working with large clients - both listed and private - across a wide range of sectors from retail to technology.

Educated at Oxford University with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics, Ms Thorne worked across the UK in Deloitte’s Liverpool, London and Manchester offices before being made partner in 1998. She has also worked as the accountancy giant’s head of Plc audit across the north, as well as chair of its younger partner advisory group, north west audit talent partner and managing partner for talent.

Name: Joanne Segars
Job title: Chief Executive - National Association of Pension Funds
Born: Unknown, United Kingdom

Joanne Segars was appointed the Chief Executive of the National Association of Pension funds in 2006 after joining the body the previous year as director of policy. In her previous roles, she was Head of Pensions and Savings at the Association of British Insurers between 2001 and 2005. Ms Segars started her career in pensions as a researcher and journalist for Incomes Data Services, and since then, has taken on a series of prominent roles in the male-dominated industry. As the issue of pensions becomes ever more important to the UK’s ageing population, Ms Segars’ profile is expected to become higher than ever before.

Name: Amanda Staveley
Job title: Investment management - PCP Capital Partners
Born: Ripon, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Born and raised in Ripon, North Yorkshire, Amanda Staveley has risen to prominence as a ‘super-broker’ in the Middle East. She played an important role in the investment of £7.3 billion in Barclays Bank by the ruling families of Abu Dhabi and Qatar, and by the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, apparently earning £40 million commission from this deal alone. Ms Staveley also played a role in the high profile purchase of Manchester City Football Club by Sheik Mansour in September 2008.

Name: Christine Lagarde
Job title: Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
Born: Paris, France

After holding numerous ministerial posts in the French government, Paris-born Christine Lagarde was appointed Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July 2011. Notably, she was the first woman to become finance minister of a G8 economy, and is also the first female to head up the IMF.

No stranger to high praise, Ms Lagarde was named the best Minister of Finance in the Eurozone by the Financial Times in 2011, while she was also ranked the fifth most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine in 2014. A lawyer by profession, Ms Lagarde joined Chicago legal company Baker & McKenzie in 1981, where she was made partner after six years. She made the executive committee in 1995 before being elected chairman in 1999.

In her political career, Ms Lagarde stood as France’s Trade Minister between 2005 and May 2007. She placed focus on opening new markets for French products, specifically the technology sector. Upon announcing her candidacy to be head of the IMF in 2011, she received widespread support, particularly from the US, which was determined to appoint a new head quickly due to the fragility of the European economy at the time.

An afterthought

The individuals above are living proof that women can reach the most powerful positions in the finance sector, and while there are many additional examples of this, the reality is that females continue to lag behind men when it comes to filling these competitive roles.

In the next blog in our Women in Finance series, we will take a closer look at how education plays a significant role in the career paths chosen by many women in the finance sector, and whether more needs to be done to encourage them to apply for more senior positions. View the blog post here.

View all blog posts in our Women in Finance series:
Women in finance: the state of play today
2. Q&A with Finance Director Nives Feely
Breaking the glass ceiling: five prominent women in finance
4. Changing careers and education - what’s holding women back in the finance sector?
5. Women in finance: Analysis of our 'Gender Diversity in Business' survey

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