Have you ever thought about starting your career in finance? The average financial advisor makes a salary of $70,000/year (Indeed, 2020). Finance is a lucrative industry that can help individuals earn more money and equip them with the knowledge and resources to manage their money better. Nonetheless, there is a lack of diversity within this field. In fact, according to the Mercer Report, although “Chicago is 54% white, 17% African-American, 21% Latino, 6% Asian, and 2% other, Blacks and Latinos are underrepresented in the finance industry.” In fact, the finance industry in “Chicago is 67% white, 12% African-American, 10% Latino, and 10% Asian; differences are even more acute at the highest levels (C-suites): 92% white, 3% African-American, 2% Latino, and 4% Asian” (Forbes Council, 2018). Additionally, according to Forbes, as career levels rise, female representation declines. Although 46 percent of financial services employees are women, at the executive level, it’s only 15 percent (Forbes Council, 2018).
Debbie, a financial professional of 18 years, expressed frustration with the lack of diversity in the industry. At one of her old firms, she led the affinity group for Latino employees, and she discussed working in a managerial role for 8 years and still experiencing trouble receiving a promotion. Debbie shared that she “felt insulted” and, week after week she heard her struggles echoed by her Latino peers who also wondered, “Why am I not getting interviewed? Why am I not moving up? I have been here for years and this other person has been here for two. What is going on with the reviews?”
In response to these realities, a group of Chicago-based financial institutions joined forces to address the lack of diversity in the Chicago financial services industry. Together, these groups reached out to 10,000 professionals of color and women working in finance to research the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives, hiring and promoting trends, and to understand each professional’s journey and their experience in the industry. With this information and data, they implemented a plan to interrupt the cycles that have excluded the recruitment of diverse talent. For instance, on July 9, 2020, the Financial Services Pipeline (FSP) Initiative hosted there 7th Annual Intern Career Conference, which seeks to introduce youth to the finance industry and discuss what working in finance looks like. The conference—led by dynamic, experienced, and successful women and POC leaders in finance—shed light on navigating the job search process and the intersections of race, gender, and class within finance (Mercer Report, 2015). Most helpfully, the conference also helped interns begin to think about and craft their brand through sharpening elevator pitches, resume writing, and interviewing skills.
Following the conference, students can access the Financial Services Career toolkit put together by FSP (https:// www.fspchicago.org/careers-toolkit/) to learn more about the ins and outs of starting a career in finance.