UBS: how can I have a career in banking as a female graduate?

UBS recently worked with female leadership experts at Shine For Women to launch ‘UBS Getting Ready’, a career coaching workshop for first year female students

We spoke to Beth Mallac from the UBS Campus Recruitment Team, as well Shine’s founders, Anna Baréz-Brown and Caroline Whaley about the value of women in finance and other professions. They offered their advice for female students interested in working in the industry.

Beth: Female gender diversity – as well as diversity as a whole - is something we take seriously at UBS. We are committed to attracting, supporting and retaining top female talent across all levels of the organization.

Women in banking: what we’re doing

Each year we run events targeted at female students across the UK, like our flagship Unlock Your Potential event, where students can network with women at UBS and benefit from application skills workshops. 

We also offer a variety of other ways for women to engage with us. In addition to Unlock Your Potential, our catalogue now includes female dinners with UBS alumni, sponsorship of female societies, and careers coaching at our UBS Getting Ready event that was run in partnership with Shine for Women.  In 2015, our reach will extend to female A-Level students through our partnership with The Artemis Network, who help young women develop employability skills and confidence.  

Attracting top talent is only half the story. Once our graduates have joined the firm, our focus is to encourage their development and put them in the best position for success.  One thing we do is pair graduates with a junior buddy and a more experienced mentor to help them navigate the early stages of their career, while our grad and intern programs incorporate regular opportunities for learning and networking – including some bespoke female events. 

But it's not just at the junior level that we're focusing our efforts.  Our business diversity councils have raised the stakes for female progression and our All Bar None network provides opportunities for women to engage on the topic at all levels of the firm.

Why are we doing it?

As a firm, we are taking an active role in breaking down the stereotypes that still surround the financial services industry and fuel the misconception of banking as an intense, aggressive, 'macho' environment. 

Times have moved on, and based on my experiences, this depiction of the industry couldn't be further from the truth.  

We know that a diverse and inclusive work environment is key to our success. In our experience, diverse teams have a better understanding of clients' needs and are more innovative. And we know that high quality people are more likely to be attracted to diverse and inclusive environments.

How has it been working so far?

The industry has made great strides over the past few years in terms of being able to attract, retain and support women in their progression to senior leadership roles.  

At UBS, we’re proud to be among the leading firms in our sector in terms of our gender diversity at a graduate and intern level, and we've also seen a steady increase in female applications for our programs. 

Based on our application and offer statistics as well as the conversations I've been having with female students, I increasingly get the feeling that women are indeed interested in starting their career in our dynamic, transforming industry. 

Anna and Caroline offer their top tips to help female students achieve their application goals and make the most of their careers. 

1. Understand your value

There is a huge economic argument for empowering females and entrusting them with positions of responsibility. 

Through our previous charitable work with communities in Africa, we discovered that girls who had a job tended to reinvest 90 per cent of their earnings back into their families. In comparison boys only reinvested between 30 and 40 per cent on average. 

The same applies in the developed world: time and time again the evidence shows that when you empower women, by giving them a job or promotion, they will repay that investment and turn it into tangible results for the organisation itself.

2. Take control of your future

Like most things in life, when it comes to job applications and careers there are certain aspects that you can control and others that you can’t. 

You need to be able to distinguish between the two and focus on the things that you can control, like building the right CV and professional profile. Try not to waste time on the things you can’t control e.g. trying to adapt your personality or natural skill-set to a role you’re not really suited to. 

There are plenty of jobs out there to suit your personality and skills, particularly in finance, so don’t let yourself get railroaded into a career path that isn’t right for you. 

3. Confront your fears 

From our experience, the women who progress to senior leadership positions in their chosen field are those who’ve had the resilience to overcome major challenges and pressures along the way. Resilience comes with meeting your fears head on and breaking them down so that they no longer hold you back.  

Many of the students at the event, despite being some of the most capable and driven students in the country, appeared quite fearful about their chances of landing a good job after leaving university.

The exercises we used at the event were designed to illustrate that many of the fears we have seem unfounded when put down on paper. The earlier you confront these fears and start to attack them, the quicker you can start to develop the confidence and resilience you need to succeed. 

4. Develop your brand

Personal branding was one of the key sessions of the day. One of the things we notice through our work is that many women struggle to raise their professional profile to the same extent that men do. 

This might stem from the fact that male employees are traditionally stronger networkers and are more at ease with talking about themselves and their achievements in a professional environment. 

We wanted to highlight that having a strong sense of who you are plays an important part in getting the job you want and being successful in business. This means being aware of your personal strengths and achievements and knowing how to package these in a professional context.

5. Don’t hold back

The parting message we wanted students to take away with them from the day was not to hold back from striving for what they want from life. It’s important to realise that there are very few jobs that a man can do better than a women and vice versa. 

As an intelligent, hardworking young woman, there’s nothing to stop you from having a successful career in banking or any other industry. It’s about finding the right role to suit your skills and personality and then putting all the necessary components in place to achieve this.  

Often a little more confidence and self-awareness is all you need to put you on the right path for realising your goals, whether that’s getting the job you want or being more successful in your work or studies. Start believing in yourself and your abilities and the rest will soon follow.