Despite having an impressively fair-minded and inclusive society, Canada still has a lot of work to do when it comes to gender diversity in certain segments of the business world. Many STEM-intensive industries such as the financial services sector still have a shocking under-representation of female employees, especially in asset management and senior leadership roles.

According to Catalyst, a non-profit organization promoting workplace inclusion for women in Canada, women held only 22 percent of board seats in 2016, and a full 45 percent of the 677 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange had no female board members.

Fortunately, women’s exclusion seems poised to change, thanks in large part to companies who realize that a more diverse workplace benefits both businesses and their clients.

Duane Green, the new President and CEO of Franklin Templeton Investments Canada, has made it part of his professional mandate to attract more women to the company and to asset management. “Despite decades of advocacy within the industry to advance women’s careers, their representation in senior ranks within financial services continues to be well below that of their male counterparts,” says Green. ”In an effort to bring some added focus and momentum to the issue, we’ve recently joined forces with Women in Capital Markets and the Women’s Executive Network — two leading advocacy groups in Canada — to promote and support gender diversity in investment management.”

Women avoid the financial sector

Green is keenly aware of what an uphill battle recruiting women into some areas of the financial services industry will likely be. He notes that “over the past 35 years, women have earned 9.1 million more associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees than men. Yet, today, only one in three young women aged 16 to 20 would consider a career in the field of finance.”

This statistic is especially disappointing given that women say they avoid financial careers because they want a job where they can make a positive impact on someone’s life. Ironically, this very same goal — to improve people’s lives — is at the heart of the investment industry. “We are in the business of helping people. Is this not the ultimate people business?” says Green. “The products that we offer are there to help people retire with dignity, fund post-secondary educations, and save to buy things like a new home. Overall, they help contribute to a better quality of life for people all over the world. If you want to help people, this might be a good industry for you."