4 Tips for Minorities Pursuing A Career In Finance

The professional playing field has never been even. Still today, we must acknowledge the fact that some runners start the race farther away from the finish line than others. This is particularly true in finance, where African Americans and Latinos — combined — make up only about 3.5 percent of all certified financial planners.

While too many of these obsolete ways are still alive, the new age of technology is changing the workplace landscape. In many ways, the professional office environment is incomparable to 20 years ago — with everything becoming quickly digitalized. For instance, pre-COVID, the workforce in the U.S. had grown by 15 percent since 2005, whereas the number of remote online workers had grown by 173 percent.

This tells us the winds of change are blowing, but how do you adapt to the new environment? This is not an easy question to answer, but it makes sense to start off by understanding key technological trends.


1. Embrace technology as the future of finance

This applies to everyone, not just minorities. But it’s so relevant to a career in finance that its significance cannot be ignored.

Historically speaking, the world of finance has largely been dominated by people in suits recording incredible amounts of data on paper. Now, everything is digitized as the financial world continues to integrate new technology at an astounding pace. While this generally comes as no surprise to most people, the implications are largely unnoticed.

Financial technology, commonly referred to as fintech, is experiencing adoption at an incredible rate. When thinking of fintech, most think of the U.S. Yet other parts of the world are also seeing the impact.

In the U.K., for example, fintech had a big year in 2019 as the industry received a whopping $4.9 billion in funding, representing a 36 percent increase over 2018 funding.

These investments have reached a variety of fintech firms, as their technology serves to increase the accessibility to finance. 

And consider stock trading, for example. While U.S. stock trading apps like Robinhood remain unavailable, there are plenty of popular U.K. stock trading apps that have a soaring list of customers. Probably the best example of this is eToro, which in 2020 alone welcomed 5 million new users to its platform.

Source: Finance Magnates

What exactly does that mean? Many — though not all — of the products and services offered in the fintech realm solve real-world problems, for real-world users, in various jurisdictions. This is precisely what innovation is all about, and explains why the industry is seeing so much attention. In short, fintech is here and all signs point toward continued growth.

This situation represents an incredible opportunity for those seeking an advantage in their financial career. Technology remains fraught with challenges, as a select few understand its functionality.

From websites to database management to security and even digital marketing, there’s a lot to know. Yet understanding these key aspects can only facilitate a competitive edge for you and your company. With just a basic understanding of these elements, you’ll be able to better diagnose problems and propose legitimate solutions.

However, you’re not likely to learn much of this going the typical MBA route. Taking matters into your own hands, even through self-education, can yield results. There are many crucial concepts, such as the fundamentals of continuous integration and continuous delivery, that can foster a greater understanding of how your organization works, and how it can improve.


2. Be the most reliable person in your company

Minorities are more likely to face disadvantages with education and professional connections when compared to their colleagues. As a result, minorities need an edge to compensate for this difference. That edge can be consistency.

This isn’t something taught at school, it’s a character trait that defines who you are as a person. And character traits follow you everywhere, including the office.

Consistency means everyone knows what to expect from you. If you’re consistent, you’re reliable, and all of your colleagues will take notice.

Character traits, such as consistency, offer something objective about you that people can attribute to you. Subjective bias, though many times unconscious, is known to negatively affect minorities in the workplace.

Objective character traits serve as a means to overcome such subjective biases. Consistency and reliability, for example, can be leveraged to outshine harmful biases that can impede progress and equality.


3. Don’t mind the differences, embrace the similarities

It’s very possible that you could be working in a professional environment in which you are the only minority on your team. If you find yourself in such a situation, there are a few considerations to watch out for.

Most people are concerned with their image and perception in the office. If you are too, that’s perfectly normal. The thing to watch out for is when this leaves you feeling shy, timid and afraid to open up.

We are not robots; we need to have healthy professional relationships with our colleagues, and oftentimes with our clients. If you feel afraid to open up, the end result could be not just a negative impact on your mental health, but your career.

Many positions require connecting with others. If you’re reluctant to open up about yourself, those around you are less likely to feel a connection. This could lead to an environment where your colleagues — and even your bosses — feel as if much of you remains unknown.

Unfortunately, when it comes to promotions, recognition, or career advancement in general, such a situation can have severely negative repercussions. If those around you feel as if they don’t know who you are, how can they see what you’re accomplishing? How can they see the effort you’re devoting to your work—if they have no basis of which to measure?

Being afraid to open up is likely a result of feeling vulnerable about differences. In this case, focus on the similarities you have with those around you. By being a little more outgoing — perhaps by asking the questions first — you might find that you have many more similarities than initially envisioned.

The result can lead to not just a more comfortable work environment, but a transparent atmosphere with real connections and, in turn, due recognition.


4. Keep in mind, you are a role model

Black women — in particular — made up about 12.3 percent of the total workforce in the U.S. in 2019, yet only accounted for 4 percent of senior-level executives in the private sector. What does this suggest? If you’re a minority and you maintain a senior leadership position, eyes will be on you, as you’ll be one of the few.

Keep in mind that your success provides inspiration, hope and motivation to those who wish to pursue a similar path. If you’re working toward changing the status quo, you’re not just doing it for yourself; you’re doing it for everyone.

So keep your head up high and remember what’s at stake. The movement toward equality and fairness in the workplace isn’t just about me, or you — it’s about all of us, our world, and its future inhabitants. By working toward change, you’re not just changing your life; you’re changing the world.

Kiara Taylor is an expert on the integration of finance and technology. She writes about the impact of both micro and macro trends on global finance.

  • Originally published February 25, 2021