Female finance executive body making progress


By Elizabeth Somerville

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Financial Executive Women (FEW), an association that empowers females in the financial services sector, has been making inroads with its goal to enable women to reach their full potential through the networking and mentoring opportunities it provides to members.

The association, which was established in July 2013, had reached a total of around 140 members, and was aiming to reach 2000 within five years, FEW founder Judith Beck told financialobserver.

“Our focus so far has been on senior members and corporate members [which so far include Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and AMP among others],” Beck said.

“Under corporate sponsorship, companies can also nominate future leaders for membership.”

Currently, the majority of members fell within the senior membership category and another 25 were part of the future leaders’ class, she said.

“Most [members] come from distribution backgrounds and the majority come from within wealth [divisions] of major financial institutions, banks and insurance companies.”

FEW members are supported in achieving their career goals through a mentoring program as well as an annual conference.

“What we’re trying to do through FEW is provide inspirational people so members can see role models,” Beck said.

“There are a lot of successful senior women in finance; our membership base is the perfect example of this.

“We’re trying to make sure women are seen [within these senior roles].”

FEW’s annual conference would be held in Sydney in March next year and would include sessions from senior executive women about their experiences in getting to the top, she said.

The conference would also coincide with the launch of the “Top of the Ladder” webinar series, which would include interviews with high-level women in the industry, she added.

“We need to make sure that future leaders and women coming up the ladder see other women doing it, and they are,” she said.

“[Members] need to hear and see from other women who have gone down similar paths.”

To support the career goals of its members, FEW’s advocacy program partners members with a senior advocate outside of their current organisation who they can go to for career guidance and advice.

“We surveyed 70 [of our] senior members and less than 1 per cent had a relevant ‘go-to’ person throughout their career,” Beck said of the reason behind the initiative.

CBA premier banking manager Kaye Nelson has been involved with FEW’s mentoring program since March 2013 after being nominated to participate by her organisation.

“[The program] has helped a lot, particularly over the last six months,” Nelson told financialobserver.

“I’ve moved from a client-focused role to managing a team and my mentor was really helpful in making that step.”

Beck said the external advocates were available for career advice and support in areas not covered at business school, adding “sometimes it’s the little things we need to get right before we get the big things right”.

Nelson agreed, saying: “[The mentoring program] is more around if you’ve got a problem or issue and you’re not sure how to deal with it or what to do, it gives you a support network.

“It’s good to have an external sounding board and support.”

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