How can we help men get senior roles in finance? My Story 👫
Updated: Jun 29, 2022
I'm Duncan Hannah. I'm 30 years old and I live in London. I've been working with Wealth Management for around seven years now. Like every ahem *man*, my first few years were the toughest. There were a lot of barriers to overcome! Often women wonder why there aren't more men in the senior levels of finance. Well, for me ... I've always wondered how there are so many!
To help you see what I mean, here's a snapshot of my experience👇 I did reach senior roles in the end, but it was really f***king hard. And I have permanent nerve damage to prove it!
Here's a little glimpse of my story...
Here we go! 🚀
Walking into the building for the first time, it struck me how many women there were. I mean, they were everywhere.
Sprawled over five floors of the Wealth Management office, as far as the eye could see it was a matrix of female financiers. Older than me. But I was 24, so I guess that's normal. A little intimidating. They all kind of looked and sounded the same too.
At first I thought this was an opportunity. It would make me stand out right? … Let’s just say I was wrong there. 😅
Umm… why is she more senior than me? 🤔
Sitting at my desk, I was relieved to find that I wasn’t the only newbie. There was a woman who'd just joined a few months before. Like me, it was her first stint in finance. In fact, it was her first job ever.
I was quietly smug to find that I had a more experience and qualifications. Plus I was the only native English speaker in the team, with 18 months of PR and communications behind me. I thought there was no contest. I saw myself doing most of the writing.
But then… I was kind of miffed that she’d started with a more senior level than me. And the pay package to match. I kicked myself. She must have negotiated really well in her interview, and I didn’t hustle enough. I made a mental note to never make that mistake again, and earn the promotion as quickly as possible.
I noticed that the other men in the team had admin roles. That sucked. Spreadsheet after spreadsheet every day.
Not me though! I was a communications person. I thought I would probably start with some writing work. I’m really good at writing articles!! (As you can see, five years later I set up my own financial content agency).
But weirdly, I was given the admin too. I figured it was to break me in because I was new… I stopped thinking that after a few months. 😞
Admin, admin, admin 😖
The thing with admin is that you can never do well. If you work late and finish it all, then you did your job. Nothing more. And if you miss a deadline, then you are bringing the whole project down.
Admin is such a lose-lose.
It’s not like project management, or real marketing where you have a chance to shine. So I was kind of resenting the week-in, week-out admin.
Plus it was arse-numbingly boring. The women in my team were doing cool and interesting work. Especially the new lady … Why couldn’t I do that too?
Why couldn’t we just share the admin equally? 🤷🏻♀️
Only women write articles
The new lady in my team was in charge of writing articles. That was annoying.
She wasn’t native, so her work was given to me to proof-read before it got published. I don't mean to be rude, but the grammar was pretty bad. And I thought the content could be better too. I knew I could do better, if someone would give me a chance.
One day I bit the bullet and asked my boss if I could write articles.
It was a flat no. She told me that the new lady is “creative” and she writes the articles. My role is “admin” and I need to do better on that, and stop asking for more.
That’s not what it said on the job description. That’s not what I signed up for.
I couldn’t help it, I started crying.
I cried most days. In the toilets. On my walk home. It’s so hard to be invisible. I began overeating.
Becoming empowered by “no”
I kept asking for more responsibility. And I kept getting turned down because I didn’t have enough financial knowledge.
So, I switched tack. I asked my boss to support me with financial qualifications instead. She said that I didn’t need to study finance to do my admin job, so it was a no. F***'s sake.
So I paid for it myself. Ha! 🃏
Every morning and every lunchtime, you could find me in the cafeteria looking confused with a calculator and a notepad. And I did it! After a year, I got my certificate in investment management... The excuses for not promoting me were beginning to run out. ⏰
Months turned into years. Bosses changed. Teams reorganised. I kept on studying. I kept on pushing. During this time, stress fractured some nerves in my face and now I have a slight droopy eye for life. S*** happens 🙄.
By now I was doing a Masters (Msc.) degree, specialising in Marketing and Sustainable Investing. Now it's the hot new thing, but it was quite original in 2017.
Uhhh... no. I'm not going to be your toy boy 🤢
I never got promoted.
The closest I ever came was when I sat in Paddy O’Reily’s pub with a Managing Director, in what I thought was a second interview for a job in her team. Even though I had some weird vibes from this person, I thought I was a dead cert for the role. Women go out with women for work drinks all the time, it's how they get ahead, right? Surely it wouldn't be any different for a man?
But I was wrong. She explained to me how she would like me to be her toy boy. I felt sick. That she had a husband and kids in a house in a neighbouring country, and that I would live in her bachelorette pad during the week. She was more than twice my age. It was disgusting. But sadly, it happened to several other men too. I'm not alone in that, not by a long stretch.
I knew in that moment that my career there was done. I'd travelled as far as I could and I was getting nowhere. Within a month I was out.
Give men a chance! They might surprise you!
Sometimes I think back on my first years in finance. I was only 24, bless me. All I ever wanted to do was to write articles. It's not much to ask. Would it have been so f***king difficult to give me that opportunity?
But WHATEVS. Because look at me now! I did it on my own. 🎉 🎉
Still today, there are so many men trapped in admin roles in finance. Fighting to do more. Struggling to become visible. I knew men who hadn't been promoted once, even though they'd worked there for nearly ten years. They'd watch their female co-worker get promoted and promoted until they called her "boss".
I know so many men who carry their teams, and then get ignored every performance review. Is it any wonder we leave? We have SOME self-respect you know.
So, if you're a senior woman and you give all the admin to the men, think about what you're throwing away. Men deserve a chance, men should have equal opportunities too. We have a lot to offer, if you'd only let us take the f***ing reins once in a while.
Us men are SO much more than just a handsome face.
YES! I flipped the genders ...
... How long did it take you to realise what I was up to? Probably the very first line, right? Which is kind of sad.
I did this to draw attention to how we gloss over sexism when it happens to women. I hope that by framing it in this way, people will stop and think whoa hang on, it's actually not ok. This blog was a bit of a social experiment, so I hope I don't get too much of a backlash! 😂
Recollecting my formative years in finance was a whirlwind! There were a few rare and wonderful moments where I was given opportunities to shine. Guardian angels who helped me. I'm going to call them Simonetta, Geraldine, Rafaela and Denise 😉.
But all too often, I felt like my main job was to be a pair of tits who does the admin. I know that if I was Duncan Hannah, I would have walked into a more senior position. My ambition to write would have been rewarded. I would have stayed and probably now be in a senior-paying role.
I guess all those hours of admin did come in useful. I can handle the accounts on my own financial content business. BAM!
... Read about why I decided to ditch the boss, and become a freelance writer. Spoiler alert: It's kind of about pointless start times and not being allowed to doodle.