An Indian view from Wall Street on women in finance


My inspiration has come from within my own family. My mother who had a doctorate and was a Professor at a time when women in India barely went to college.
She took a leap of faith from Dalal Street to Wall Street to manage some key initiatives at S&P DJI. Alka Banerjee shares her views on how hard it is to stay ahead of the curve being a woman

Being a woman, do you find yourself disadvantaged in the financial world?

I have always enjoyed my work having a natural aptitude for numbers and finance. I do my work without thinking of myself as a woman in financeNSE -2.63 % but rather as an individual who simply enjoys what she does. Having said that women have the dual task of balancing family and work and making sure their colleagues at work are convinced about their professionalism and commitment. This is a challenge that women face in any work place and finance is no different. In the US, finance is considered a stronghold for men but still quite a few women have entered it and done well. Challenges are always there and have to be met head on to succeed.

How do you look at Indian women making it to corporate leadership roles and company boards? Good going, or a lot to be desired? Where are the gaps, if any?

Women can have a harder time because they don’t easily get mentors who can guide them in their career path. Men can find likeminded peers and seniors far more easily. Awareness is increasing rapidly that corporate boards need to be diverse to successfully meet today’s competitive challenges. California has recently mandated that all boards need to have at least one woman board member. Change is coming slowly though there is still ways to go. For Indian women working in the US the challenge can be tougher since they not only have to fight the barriers of gender but also of ethnicity.

Why do you think gender diversity is key to growth in the corporate world?

As more and more women enter the workforce a lot of the financial decisions within households and incorporates are now made by women. To understand the requirements of women, their way of operation and to truly empathize with their needs women are needed to get the complete picture. In addition women are far more sensitive to other kinds of diversity which could come from ethnicity, geography, religion, age etc. No board can be truly well rounded unless it has representation from one half of all humanity.

Who are the women personalities in the corporate world that inspire you?

My inspiration has come from within my own family. My mother who had a doctorate and was a Professor at a time when women in India barely went to college. My aunts who like my mother were Doctors and Professors. My grandmother and great grandmother who were tough and independent women who were making financial decisions for the family. While none of these women were in business they instilled in me the value of work ethics, commitment to a job well done and complete integrity which still hold true in today’s complex world.

3 thumb rules for a fellow woman in managing finances?

Three thumb rules for women managing finances – Think long term. Plan for emergencies and set aside a portion of funds for taking risks but know when to cut losses and get out if the risk does not pan out. Always have a stop loss in mind.