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The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report suggests that female talent remains a much-underutilised resource in the workplace. This is particularly the case in certain industries, including women in finance, where female representation declines as career level rises. Although 46% of finance employees are women, only 15% are employed at executive level.

More women than men start out in financial services. However, by middle-management level many have left, which leaves men holding the vast majority of the top positions. A more balanced workforce could improve many aspects of the industry, including productivity, profitability and culture.

The finance industry is renowned for being male dominated. Women who do break through in the industry can find it difficult to gain professional credibility in a world used to being ruled by middle-aged men. However, women who have found success in finance advise that opportunities can be seized with the right outlook.

Keri Gohman, President of Xero Americas (which provides cloud-based payroll and accounting to small businesses), has seen many women struggle to fit into the male-dominated finance environment. Goham found the greatest professional success after deciding to focus on doing first-rate work in her own way.

Instead of focussing on fitting into the existing boundaries of being a finance executive, Goham realised that she should reveal her own strengths; she took more risks, became more powerful and reached her true potential. Goham’s thriving career spans investment, banking, insurance and accounting.

Joey Horn is Managing Director at investment company Oak Management AS. Having previously specialised in strategic mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures during her time at Credit Suisse First Boston in the mid-90s, Horn champions women in the financial industry. She also volunteers her time and services to multiple non-profit organizations, including Williams College, Restore the Music and Right to Play.

Some women in finance find the industry is about more than making their own money; it can make a difference to the lives of others. With so many people reportedly finding it difficult to save money, good financial services can help families and individuals, as well as businesses. Financial leaders can offer a valuable support system.