ElevatHer is an innovative networking hub for women in finance. Find out more from its Founder, Sheena Shah, ahead of Women of the Square Mile.
Sheena Shah is the Founder of ElevatHer; a networking app for women in finance and financial technology. Sheena credits her career and the opportunities she received to the mentors and friendships that have invested in her. However, as she climbed the corporate ladder, she became increasingly aware of the drop in peer-to-peer or senior mentors she had access to. Through the personal struggles Sheena faced in hunting for meaningful connections and relationships she founded ElevatHer.
The app is designed to be a hub where members can regroup and reinvest in themselves at all stages of their career by building peer-to-peer and mentor-to-mentee relationships across the industry. Through introducing female talent to an untapped support system, the goal is to help women build their career knowledge, aspirations and networks. ElevatHer also helps members keep on top of sought-after industry events and exciting opportunities for networking through a live central page.
Sheena graduated from Aston University with a degree in Business and International Relations. Before founding ElevatHer, she spent almost 10 years in the financial services – starting her career on the graduate scheme for Goldman Sachs, then moving to Morgan Stanley’s Sydney office and most recently to a proprietary trading firm called Maven. Sheena decided to leverage her financial acumen with her passion for philanthropy to make a career transition and focus her efforts and impact on empowering and supporting women in finance through the launch of ElevatHer.
We sat down with Sheena ahead of Women of the Square Mile to find out more about ElevatHer.
Why is networking so important for women in finance?
Even though it's 2019 and much progress has been made, professional women are still at a disadvantage in the workplace.
As countless studies have documented, the further up the corporate ladder one goes, the fewer women you'll see. Women are underrepresented at all levels of business, from first-level managers to CEOs.
While progress has certainly been made over the last several decades and even over the past few years, the glass ceiling is still holding strong. This is why networking, an important component of any professional's career, is even more important when it comes to women - whether they want to climb the ladder to the C-suite or start their own business.
There are countless benefit of networking:
- It is a breath of fresh air to get away from your day to day roles and be able to connect with someone through idea and knowledge sharing.
- It allows you to think outside of the box and brainstorm, which is a lot harder to do in a more corporate setting. One of the purposes of networking is to find different perspectives, which means extending your reach outside of the organisation/team/role.
- The moment you start networking, you open yourself up to absorb new information like industry insights and trends.
- It can also be a great support group and a platform to provide and receive advice about challenges you face and how to overcome them by females who have had to go through similar situations.
But, you don’t have to take my word for it, the data proves it. Harvard Business Review conducted a study of 2,600 women across industries attending a conference for women. 42% of women who attended received a promotion, compared to 18% who hadn’t attended but signed up.
The likelihood of receiving a promotion more than doubled after the conference.
What is your reaction to the fact that only 6% of financial services firms have a female CEO, according to research by the Financial Conduct Authority?
It is very disappointing, but not surprising. Almost seven in ten CEOs at S&P 500 companies last year had been recruited internally for the role. Corporations also tend to go with executives who have run operating units, which is a level that few women reach.
We work in an industry where profitability is key, so figures like 55% of the companies that became inactive on the index had one or zero women on their boards should be another motivation for change.
We need to tackle the challenges on a more junior level to retain talent. It is hard to break the cycle because juniors lack the high-level representation and role models to motivate them to break the 5% glass ceiling.
Is there a silver bullet for getting more women to the top?
Yes and no.
Yes, one approach can be going down the legal route, for example, by instantly requiring companies to comply with more equal representation, that can be set over a two year timeframe to implement. The government has taken a great step in the right direction by forcing companies to publish the gender pay gap, helping to encourage companies to push their female employees both in pay and internal opportunities. Unfortunately, as today's reports confirm, not much has changed since last year even with the spotlight.
No, in the sense that change does take time. Again, this needs to start at an earlier level. What can we do to encourage more women into business or to address the barriers that might deter them in the first place from either studying the relevant course or then taking the leap and moving into business themselves. Stats confirm in 2018 there were 30 women in full-time executive roles at FTSE 250 firms, down from 38 in 2017 – amounting to 6.4% of the total. We need to ensure the momentum carries on otherwise we will end up regressing.
What one piece of advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech or finance?
There are a variety of career options you can pursue within the tech/finance world. These include macro or company research, getting involved in the capital markets, trade or export finance, working in the technology space and coding or even advising governments. As long as you are committed and resilient, the sector is a place where you can move horizontally, laterally or even diagonally, in order to shape your career in a way that aligns what you do with who you are.
Who is your female tech or finance inspiration? What have they done and why do they inspire you?
Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s first female Chief Executive. The reason she inspires me and is such a great role model is because of how honest she is. She openly speaks about the sacrifices she has made as a woman, a mother, a wife, and a CEO and how you cannot have it all, but knowing there is a conflict is the first step to finding solutions. She is also relatable because coming from a similar Indian heritage, there is also a cultural clash that needs to be addressed.
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you’d like to share with our readers?
I have just launched ElevatHer, which is a networking app for women in finance and financial technology. It introduces an untapped support system for our members by allowing them to build peer-to-peer and mentor-mentee relationships across companies in the industry in a more tailored way. We have recently also added a section on the app showing industry events happening around you. These are filtered and posted on the ‘Events’ page; making it super easy for members to find all the information in one place as opposed to trawling through different websites and missing out on exciting opportunities. And, I am very proud to confirm it is available on both IOS and Android!