Financial world’s ethnic equation

It is not easy being a woman on Wall Street. And it’s even harder being a woman of colour. According to new research from Catalyst, the non-profit group that aims to expand opportunities for women in business, those belonging to racial minority groups face greater challenges than white women in developing trusting relationships with their managers in the financial services industry.

The research was presented last week at a seminar sponsored by Goldman Sachs. The investment bank runs a programme, known as Brokering Change, which includes two seminars a year focused on improving the professional fortunes of Asian, black, Hispanic and native American women in the financial sector.

I spoke with Katherine Giscombe, vice-president of diverse women and inclusion research at Catalyst, about the findings. Giscombe says negative stereotyping and exclusion from influential networks can shape the ways in which minority women experience the workplace. This limits access to trusting, mentoring relationships with their bosses.

Giscombe told me:

“Their race and gender is a double whammy.”

The research, which included perspectives from both minority women and white male managers, also found women of colour have especially narrow networks in their industries. A slim professional network is often associated with a greater inclination to leave an organisation and lesser commitment to a company.

Giscombe said:

“Our recommendation is that [multicultural women] work harder at building relationships across function and across groups. It’s exciting to present research that is actionable. Women can use this to further their careers, and it’s empowering.”

At the same time, though, the onus is not just on the individual woman, she says:

“Managers, for example, can serve as role models. They can encourage more openness with employees by disclosing, say, mistakes they’ve made in the past that weren’t the end of the world.”

Candid admissions like these will increase open and honest communications between the boss and subordinate.

“They also need to make the work environment as inclusive as possible. They need to make sure that talented people of colour – particularly women – are not overlooked for highly visible assignments. They need to guard against biases.”

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Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

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Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

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Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

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Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

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Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.