How Difficult It Is for A Woman To Make A Mark In The Financial Sector?

"It is not only important that we recognize women working in organisations but also celebrate all women in the family/spouses of male leadership and they provide true support and inspiration to men leaders of our organization. They equally deserve the credit for being a motivating force towards the success of our organization."


Career in Bollywood or Hollywood is always tagged as a troublesome place for women to make a mark. 

There’s another high-profile, big-money industry where women have been historically underrepresented. In the upper echelons of financial management and investment services, female workers have long been notoriously scarce. 

In a candid conversation with Dr. Rashmi Saluja, Executive Chairperson, Religare Enterprises, she throws a spotlight on what does it actually mean to have a diverse work culture in any organisation where she has clearly pointed various facets of a woman's work style and that how can she bee a boon to this segment. Let's have a look at the same.

  1. What has been your experience as a woman leader in finance, historically a male-dominated field?

It’s been a positive and enriching journey so far. People think that the finance industry is male-dominated, but in my case, this hasn’t been the challenge. I believe that if you are good at your job, you’re approachable and you work well in a team, you can manage any business challenge that comes to your way and work. Now the time has changed and it is encouraging to see that women are joining this industry and holding senior leadership positions. 

In my view, as a woman leader, it is very important to stand our ground, ensure an environment of respect and professionalism and being able to thrive in the face of adversity for a successful long-term. I have always been motivated by opportunities to grow and improve. I constantly improve on being emotionally smart, reminding myself to be self-aware and to have an executive presence.

2. From your experience, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities for women in the financial sector?

The main thing that I’ve found challenging, however, has been the ability to put myself forward, lies in changing the stereotypes and assumptions about what is required for leadership and success that invade the culture of financial sector. These assumptions relate to both day-to-day working practices and also the qualities required for leadership. 

Also, India’s financial services sector has been amongst the fastest growing sectors in the economy, a trend that is likely to persist given the diverse opportunities that continue to emerge as the sector expands. This clearly indicates potential employment for first-generation educated women who aspire to be gainfully employed in financial services. Also, now for many forward-thinking organizations, gender equality is becoming a matter of policy, whether it is committing to equal representation of women in the boardroom or hiring diversity officers. I believe these changes will further unfold opportunities for women in the financial sector.

3. Do you feel there is gender diversity in today’s financial services industry?

Yes, to an extent, a rapidly evolving finance industry demands new capabilities, a more diverse workforce and inclusive workplace cultures. Diversity is the gamut of human attributes, perspectives, identities, and backgrounds and each of these factors are considered, encouraged and leveraged to develop a successful, diverse, and inclusive environment in the service sector. Also, I strongly believe that promoting inclusion and diversity in financial services will help to enhance business performances.

4. Balancing family and work becomes increasingly challenging for women especially at the senior-levels. Is it true? Please share your views.

Maintaining work life balance for women used to be a challenge initially, but now we are in an era when you see women leaders across industries, hence this hasn’t been a challenge now. Women are actually multitaskers and they are trained to take care of their family while equally focusing on their work. 

5. What does the finance industry as a whole need to do to reduce gender discrimination at workplace? 

Tremendous efforts have been made to move forward in recent years, and I think the most important thing that the industry needs to work on is helping women to put themselves forward and find sponsors within the organisation who can help them prepare for their next roles. I think, as senior woman leaders it is our duty to provide our women workforce with opportunities to apply for roles and showcase their capabilities. Sponsorship within an organisation is very important and I believe that this will help reduce gender discrimination in the sector and help women overcome the reluctance of putting themselves in bigger roles. 

6. What are your advices to everyone to achieve gender equity in organisations?

Gender equality should not be seen as a responsibility of HR department, rather it should be owned by every single employee of an organisation.  We in Religare have a particular focus on gender diversity and we ensure that during screening for top management and senior management jobs we screen as women leaders as possible.  Final hiring is off course purely based on basis of merit. We have strong women representation at the Board level as well with me chairing the affairs of the Board. 

7. What would you advice for women aiming for the top?

Be clear about your career plans, know what success is for you and make sure that you’re articulating it appropriately. You should be visible, be able exhibit yourself and your achievements aptly. Find ways of networking – be it at events and conferences or peer-mentoring groups. 

8. What can other organisations take from Religare’s company culture and gender diversity initiatives?

I think first and foremost, what other organisations can take from us is that we don’t preach, rather follow. We take this issue seriously and at Religare, we aim to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions in the company. Religare has made efforts in the field and has had succeded in bringing senior women into the organisation. Very recently we had 50 percent women members in our board of directors. 

Right now also, we have two board members as women directors. Also, it is not only important that we recognize women working in organisations but also celebrate all women in the family/spouses of male leadership and they provide true support and inspiration to men leaders of our organization. They equally deserve the credit for being a motivating force towards the success of our organization.     

Also, there is increasing momentum behind the push to create a more gender-balanced world; certainly, in our firm, there have been many steps that we have taken over the years that showcase our commitment to increasing the representation of senior women in the financial sector.


Around The World