Look for the Opportunities

Rather than focus on which opportunities are not available in the workplace today, what if we focused on where the opportunities are?

look for the opportunities to succeed the way women work

The famous quote by former Canadian hockey player, Wayne Gretzky (considered by many to be the best hockey player in history) comes immediately to mind:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Successful women go to where the opportunities are. They know what they are and how to find them. They are constantly seeking out opportunities by talking with their network, talking with people within organizations in which they work, and by staying on top of changes in industries or new innovations.

A few years ago, Ranks of Women in Finance Shrink was written in a way that might have been very discouraging to women in or considering entering the financial industry. It started out with “Women are fading from the finance U.S. finance industry…” and went on to enumerate how over the past 10 years there has been a 2.6% reduction in the female workforce in finance, while at the same time there has been a 9.6% increase in men in the field.

This trend runs counter to the overall gender make up of the U.S. workforce where the growth of women in the labor market has outpaced the increase in male workers. The article does a good job exploring the potential reasons why this reduction in women in the finance industry might be occurring. It considers whether:

  1. Women bore the brunt of recent layoffs in the industry.
  2. Technology and computers have replaced junior, back-office workers; positions often held by women.
  3. Young women are perhaps not attracted to entry-level financial positions or not being hired to fill them.
  4. There is a lack of sufficient advancement track records for women.
  5. There is a perception (or even a reality) that sexism is still prevalent in the field.

Was the intent of this article to further discourage women from the financial field? That would be a shame. The way optimistic, success-oriented women would interpret this sort of news about any industry would be contrary to that. The way they would see it would likely be to think one or all of the following:

  • This news implies that good financial companies that know the value of a diverse workforce are likely to be dismayed by these statistics and might be looking to begin to reverse this trend by finding opportunities to reward, develop, and promote the women already in their employ.
  • Financial firms that are starting to come out of this recession will likely be looking for skilled and qualified female candidates.
  • Right out of college or grad school women with skills and backgrounds that would be valuable tofinancial companies might be in a position to be selected for interviews and might even be able to negotiate higher salaries.

In other words, success-minded women would not be deterred by this sort of news. In contrast, they would look for the potential opportunities information like this might bring.

My experience working in the financial industry as well as knowing and coaching many women in the field has been in stark contrast to the picture pointed by the WSJ article. I and many women I know would describe the financial industry as one where women are able to employ a wide range of skills, balance work-life issues, and enjoy opportunities for development and advancement.

So, before you start buying into all the “bad” news that is available ad nauseum, and before you start thinking that the opportunities for women are declining, ask yourself:

How else could you interpret what you hear and read about? What if you changed your perspective and looked for the possible opportunities instead of being discouraged?


Within what industries, companies, or geographies are you seeing opportunities? How do you look for the opportunities? What’s been your experience in the financial sector? Where do you look for opportunity?