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The proportion of women in the Master in Finance (MiF) programme has reached 50% for the first time in Imperial’s history as banks strive to get more women into financial services. 

Celebrating diversity

Imperial’s highly-regarded MiF has achieved its target of gender parity, with a 50/50 split exactly, in the programme’s 20th anniversary year. There is also fantastic diversity among the school’s MiF women, with 46 women from 19 countries including Bahrain, China, France, Mauritius, Mexico, Romania, Senegal and the UK. They also come from a diverse range of subject backgrounds including mathematics, economics, finance, engineering and science.

The result is all the more impressive given that Imperial’s MiF is one of the most quantitative programmes in Europe. Traditionally, it has been harder to recruit women for the programme as they are typically underrepresented in quantitative disciplines at undergraduate level.

Dr Lara Cathcart, Associate Professor of Finance and Academic Director of the MiF programme, said:

We are proud to have achieved a 50/50 gender balance. Our focus has been on talent and we haven’t compromised on quality. This is a very encouraging sign that things are changing and that the finance industry is becoming more attractive to women.

A changing industry

The results suggest that banks’ often-criticised efforts to recruit more women into the industry are finally starting to bear fruit, with more women seeing MiF degrees as a pathway into banking jobs. Banks are very active sponsors of the Forté Foundation, which encourages women to get a business education to boost their career prospects, and which Imperial is also a proud sponsor of.  

Highlighting Imperial’s great reputation with employers, Benedicte Aune, a female graduate of the 2016/17 MiF cohort, said:

I chose to enrol in the MiF programme at Imperial College Business School because it is highly respected by financial services employers and is in the heart of London, providing access to the world’s top banks. Since graduating, I have secured job offers from two investment banks including Morgan Stanley where I currently work as an off-cycle analyst. The degree played a big part in my career success and it was absolutely worth it.

Just 152,000 workers in the City, London’s financial hub, are women, compared with 244,000 men. Only 19.5% of senior roles across the top City employers are held by women, according to a Financial Times study

Gender pay gap

Financial services also has the widest gender pay gap in the UK, at 39.5%, compared with 19.2% across the entire economy.

But some of the UK’s top finance employers — such as Lloyds, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland — have pledged to fill 30% of their senior roles with women within five years. Thirteen organisations —  including Virgin Money, the Financial Conduct Authority and Legal & General — are aiming for women to fill half of their top jobs. 

Tackling gender inequality

The success of Imperial’s MiF is also a recognition of the efforts the Business School and wider College have made to become more diverse. Interim Associate Dean, Fiona Sandford said:

 We have had a huge push to increase gender diversity across all of our programmes, particularly in finance. Imperial is a very women-friendly institution, with a number of women’s scholarships available specifically for the MiF programme.

Imperial has partnerships with the Forte Foundation and 30% Club, and was recently among the first university business schools to receive a Bronze Athena SWAN award for its work in tackling gender inequality. Developing students to be inclusive future leaders is important to the School and its programmes are designed to support career development. The MiF offers a Leadership Development Track to equip students with the key professional and leadership skills required to successfully develop a sustainable career in today’s competitive business world.

A diverse classroom enriches the learning experience of all of the participants.

Katie Kwong is an Imperial MSc Finance student and Women’s Scholarship recipient, who previously studied Mathematics at UCL and has worked for Credit Suisse, Bloomsbury Capital and Nomura. She said:

The cultural diversity of Imperial’s MiF cohort is a feature that I highly valued when choosing which university to apply to. Playing host to 25 nationalities in the previous year, the rich international cohort was an aspect that appealed to me because it would provide a springboard to develop a global network within the finance industry.

Julia Laskowska, another Imperial MSc Finance student, said: “I chose to study finance because I wanted to expand my knowledge and it’s also the industry I want to work in. I think it is an exciting, constantly evolving field.

“The MiF programme at Imperial combines theory with practice, is constantly reviewed to make sure it’s relevant at every point in time, and provides specialist knowledge which can be a key advantage during job interviews. 

“The programme offers a broad range of optional modules which allow me to study what I am really interested in and what will benefit me in terms of my career goals. The Imperial MiF programme is also a CFA Program Partner, which will help me prepare for the professional exams. Last but not least, it has been ranked high in both the UK and world league tables.”

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Laura Singleton

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