Big shocker, the financial industry is male-dominated. I know, I know, you’re all less than surprised. It’s no big secret. The old boys club stereotype continues to exist because it’s true. There just aren’t enough women in finance. And this is a problem because it makes the entire industry feel out of touch band unrelatable to younger females are just starting to think about investing.

According to recent data, only 15% of executive-level employees and 26% of senior managers are female. That’s a huge disparity. There is some evidence that things are improving, but there is still a long way to go before women feel at home at the top of large financial corporations.

Gender Disparity in Financial Services
Image Credit: mercer.ca

Today I wanted to switch the script and highlight a few fantastic ladies who are kicking some serious butt in finance and paving the way for the rest of us. Role models are out there, and sharing their success will hopefully encourage others to keep on pushing.

Sallie Krawcheck

“I hope we women give ourselves permission to act like women (not contort ourselves to act like men) in the workplace; that we all begin to have the “courageous conversations” in the workplace about the gender biases that still exists and that women will be inspired to use their financial power to work for companies, buy from companies and invest in companies that treat women well.”

The gender pay gap combined with the investing pay gap make earning and saving more challenging for women. Sallie Krawcheck understood that and decided the old boy’s club of investment firms wasn’t cutting it for female investors. That’s why she created Ellevest; a digital investing platform for women. Instead of using gender-neutral assumptions, Ellevest factors in different salary arcs, extended lifespans and the pay gap. It’s a very cool model and one of the only financial institutions that puts females first.

Before founding Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck was a fixture on Wall Street. She was CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Smith Barney, and Sanford Bernstein. During her tenure, she was praised for her integrity and research quality.

Sallie Krawcheck has also written a book (Own It: The Power Of Women At Work) on her experience working in a male-dominated industry and gives career advice to women attempting to do the same. With her transition from the corporate world to becoming an entrepreneur, she offers powerful advice on how women can leverage their strengths to become successful in whatever role they choose.

Abigail Johnson

“I demand pretty aggressive goal setting and a commitment to measured progress towards those goals because I don’t like surprises. I don’t even like good surprises.”

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Abigail Johnson, but you should have. She has been killing it in the investment world and is one of the wealthiest American’s (not wealthiest women, wealthiest Americans) with an estimated net worth of $17.3 billion; yes billion. If they say money is power, well, that’s power.

Abigail Johnson is the President and CEO of Fidelity Investments and chairman of Fidelity International. This puts her in charge of over 45,000 employees and over $2.45 trillion of assets under management. Sure, she might get some flack for continuing the family business, but her success since taking over gives her individual credibility.

In 2017, she was ranked as the seventh most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. This puts her just behind household names like Angela Merkel, Theresa May, and Sheryl Sandberg. That is some impressive company.

Creating a name for yourself as a female in the male-dominated finance industry is a challenge, but the fact Abigail Johnson has been able to make it to the very top is inspiring.

Brenda Rideout

“When new opportunities presented themselves, I raised my hand for them.”

In 2017 Brenda Rideout became the first female CEO of a major Canadian financial institution. Yes, it took until 2017 for that to be a thing.

When she started with Tangerine (then ING Direct) in 1999 internet banking and online-only banks weren’t even a thing. Flash forward to 2018, and I bet many of you have jumped ship from traditional banks and are advocates of no-fee banking. Tangerine currently has over 2 million clients in Canada and manages over $38 billion in assets. And Brenda has played a prominent role in developing and promoting the online banking system.

Getting on board with a start-up in the 90s was a huge risk, but that wasn’t exactly new for Brenda Rideout. She took a keen interest in tech in high school which was hardly mainstream at the time, especially for a female. But she stuck with it, and it eventually earned her the job at ING Direct where she moved up through various management positions and ended up CEO of Tangerine. It’s an impressive career path that shows sometimes taking a risk is the right move.

Adena Friedman

“One of many strengths that I often see in successful women on Wall Street is a responsible balance between risk taking and risk mitigation – the ability to assess situations smartly and make the right medium-to-long-term decisions without being lured into reckless, short-term profit-taking.”

Check out these 5 inspiring women in finance who are promoting gender equality in the finance industry.You’ve heard of NASDAQ right? It’s the second largest stock exchange in the world, and a woman runs it. In 2017 Adena Friedman was promoted to CEO of the exchange. It’s the first time a woman has ever been in charge of a major stock exchange. Pretty big deal.

And how did she get there? She started at the bottom. Adena Friedman took a position as an intern at NASDAQ after graduating from business school. She worked her way up through the ranks, holding numerous high ranking positions before becoming the number one.

Now, she’s using her position to help lift other females working in finance. Since taking over leadership, Adena Friedman has signed the United Nations initiative for the Women’s Empowerment Principles, agreed to the Parity Pledge committing to interview at least one female candidate for every VP or higher level position, and joined the 30% Club where at least 30% of board members are women. These are all moves in the right direction to get more women into finance.

Eileen Jurczak

“Focus on your skills, not your job title.”

Last on the list is Eileen Jurczak. She is a Director on the Trading Floor with BMO Capital Markets, but that’s not why I added her to this list. Instead, it’s her work at promoting financial literacy amongst high school students.

In 2015 Eileen founded Bay Street Deconstructed with the goal of promoting jobs in the financial industry, especially to young girls. What she had found was that there wasn’t a lot of knowledge about working in finance. Bay Street Deconstructed hosts workshops for Grade 10 girls and boys to help encourage them to consider career options they may not have thought of, or even knew existed.

I am all for financial literacy, so any program that promotes that and helps more girls get interested in money is an A+ in my book. And that’s why Eileen Jurczak made my list!

Want More?

I loved writing this post and came up with so many more women who are killing it in finance, as local entrepreneurs or as badass female bloggers, so I don’t want to end this here. I’m going to kick my newsletter game back into gear this month and include a weekly feature of an inspiring woman. If that sounds like something you’d be into, then sign up below! And, if you know of anyone who deserves a shoutout share them below in the comments 🙂

Image Credit: Alesia Kazantceva


  1. Hi Sarah – thanks for sharing – I agree these inspiring women aren’t talked about enough, despite their phenomenal achievements in a male dominated industry.

  2. This is an amazing post, thanks for sharing. It’s odd that we don’t see women like Abigail on any of those “most influential” lists. Shameful really. We need to celebrate more women in these big industries.

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