The pandemic, the labor shortage and the new organization of work have shaken up the world of finance, creating progress for women working in the industry. However, parity is not yet achieved and many challenges remain. State of play with three experts.

Job losses, isolation, tasks piling up: the pandemic has hit women hard. As we slowly return to normal, the finance sector must juggle with 33% of vacancies for more than 90 days. No wonder, then, that the Association of Quebec Women in Finance (AFFQ) is seeing an increase in cases of burnout. “Several women also say they are experiencing more stress than before the pandemic,” said board chair Manuelle Oudar.

She still sees the future in a good light. “According to a study, women currently hold one-third of directorships on the boards of companies comprising the composite stock market index S

She adds that among all companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, 11.6% of boards have no women, up from 47.1% in 2015. Senior management teams also have more women .

In particular, there remains a wage gap of around 10% in Quebec, recalls Manuelle Oudar. “But great strides have been made. »

Marie-Claude Beaulieu is not so optimistic. The professor in the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate at Université Laval and holder of the RBC Chair in Financial Innovations notes that some women in finance, particularly mothers, have disengaged from their work during the pandemic, often due to the heaviness of the task.

“There is a lot of talk about the fact that there are more women in leadership positions and in the financial community in general. Yet, year after year, there are only 15% girls in my derivatives class. This figure has remained stable for 30 years. The reality is the same in the industry, according to her.

To remedy the situation, Marie-Claude Beaulieu believes that it takes role models and a more diverse work environment. Financial education is also a possible solution. “If we do more financial education, and earlier, we may be able to raise girls’ awareness of financial realities and get them to opt for the profession. »

As Senior Vice-President and Head, Quebec, at the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), Kim Thomassin is at the forefront of the changes taking place in finance.

She believes that some challenges remain for women in the sector, despite the progress made.

The pandemic will have made people realize that flexibility is good for everyone, she says. “You have to be careful, though, that some women don’t slip off our radar because they’re less present in activities outside the office. »

Kim Thomassin feels that after long being a male stronghold, finance is ripe for her women’s club. “We’re going through a great time. We have to celebrate the role models we have, like Bicha Ngo at Investissement Québec, Isabelle Hudon at the BDC, Janie Béique at the Fonds de solidarité FTQ or Marie-Hélène Nolet at Desjardins,” she said.

These women, all at the head of impact portfolios in Quebec, have been conferring with each other since the pandemic. “We exchange practices, files. As we are challenged by the same questions, we created a group to be able to discuss quickly. This synergy has also brought their teams closer together. And the solidarity continues to this day. “I hope this will inspire young women to choose finance. »

In order to help the next generation, the AFFQ is launching the AFFQ Scholarship this year. In addition to $1,500, it will offer young women who wish to study finance a free membership fee, support, dyads, mentoring and several activities.

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association des femmes en finance du Québec presents its annual face-to-face gala. On the theme “Les Talenteuses en lumière”, the evening will be held next Thursday, May 11 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. This year, the AFFQ Board of Directors awarded the Alter Ego Award to Denis Ricard, President and Chief Executive Officer of iA Financial Group, for his commitment to promoting the place of women in his business.