As Head of Marketing for CMC Invest UK, Meridyth Park draws upon her creative roots from her early ad agency days – BBDO, Grey, and DMB&B (now Publicis) – and her financial services tenure at UBS and Bank of America. While at the latter, she led brand strategy for the global corporate & investment bank, as well as Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. Here she shares her tips for the top…

It’s no secret that Fintech is a male-dominated sector. Shockingly, women represent just 5.6% of CEOs, 11% of total board members, and 19% of company executives. However, the industry needs diverse voices; otherwise, it risks alienating customers as well as diminishing creativity and innovation.

I’ve been in the financial services industry for over a decade, but my journey to Head of Marketing at CMC Invest has in no way been linear. Hopefully, by sharing what I have learnt, it will help you navigate your career journey with confidence and self-belief, no matter whether you’re at a high or low. Here goes:

The onus shouldn’t be on women alone to improve gender parity

The responsibility for solving the lack of gender diversity should never fall to women and women only: the onus does not lie strictly with us. While we should continue to support and empower each other, structural change is necessary, and this requires investment from business leaders.

The value of women in the workplace needs to be discussed more. In fact, a Hive study found that women are 10% more productive in the workplace. Though, it’s not just about the benefits to output. Having women in management positions has led to more flexibility in workplaces and a better appreciation for work-life balance. An organisation that has diverse voices in leadership positions will always ensure that you have a well rounded and more considerate workforce.

Deloitte found that large technology firms are now achieving an average of 33% of women within their workforce – an increase from previous years, but still a point for improvement. To attract women to fintech we need to introduce better recruitment and bias training, better support for female-related health events (pregnancy, pregnancy loss, menopause), and improved re-entry paths for women who choose to become mothers and therefore leave and re-enter the workforce. Ultimately, decisions to introduce such initiatives lie at the top.

However, it’s not just about companies. Really, it all begins with education. According to PWC, 64% of students studying a STEM subject at school are women, 30% studying a STEM subject at University are women, and ultimately, only 3% of women choose tech as their first career option. A stark decline in only a matter of years. Sadly, over a quarter of women in the study put their decision down to avoiding a male-dominated industry. We need to break the cycle, but women can’t do it alone.

Take control: don’t rely on managers

My advice to women in fintech is to understand that while managers should champion and support their direct reports, you can’t necessarily rely solely on them for career development and progression. Not all managers are going to be your biggest cheerleader nor have the sufficient managerial training to know how best to support your growth.

I’ve had some amazing managers, who supported my career growth and pushed me to succeed. But I’ve also had some terrible experiences, which is a universal problem. Gallup reports that 50% of employees quit their manager, not their job. It’s a very disappointing statistic, but it does mean that YOU need to seek growth, skills and personal development, and most importantly, mentorship elsewhere.

Mentors are integral to defining your career path. I have 3 mentors – each with their own strengths, who I rely upon for guidance. Choose mentors based on the skills that you know you want to develop. Don’t understand how to navigate a matrixed and corporate organisation?  Want to explore a different job path or different industry?  Find experienced professionals within your own organisation or through your LinkedIn and personal connections to simply have a cup of coffee and build your relationship. You don’t have to figure out your career on your own, but you do need to seek guidance.

Mentors can also help you navigate pay rises. If you are working above and beyond your role or being paid less than your peers, you deserve to be compensated – so ask for a pay rise. Ask for a promotion. Ask for measurable steps on how to reach the next level. Know your worth, and move on if your job isn’t recognising you the way it should.

Finally, beyond finding mentors, networking is invaluable. Check-in with colleagues – current and past – and reach out to others in the industry. When I worked at Bank of America, I decided to leave NYC and explore living overseas. I reached out to 1st and 2nd-degree connections on LinkedIn and asked for guidance. Within two months of my initial outreach, I was top of mind when a Managing Director in the London office suddenly had an open role. Another two months later, I had my overseas job – an opportunity I would never have been offered had I not put it out there.

 Embracing the career lows

We all dream of a perfect career journey, but life can’t always be like that. I’ve been fired, made redundant, held temp jobs, and persisted through the dot-com bubble and the 2008 financial crisis. At first glance of my title, you’d have no idea, but your career can’t always be a highlight reel.

Yet, surviving and persevering through career lows is what I’m most proud of. My lowest moments taught me humility and resilience, while also realising my true strengths. While frustratingly disappointed at the time, I have no regrets, because it led me to where I am now – a confident leader who knows her self-worth.

Uplift everyone

It’s a bit cliché, but you do have to take every good and bad experience as a learning moment and create positive outcomes. Whether you stay as an individual contributor or find yourself to be a team lead, take the best from previous experiences and apply them to your role.  Take the worst experiences to know what to avoid. Regardless, it’s important to stay positive with your colleagues, your direct reports, your managers – and uplift everyone.

Part of uplifting includes transparency. It’s always been at the core of who I am, but since finding myself in leadership positions, I’ve come to understand its importance. Your team can only work best when they know the full picture and context. By being honest and transparent, you’re helping them to succeed, which in turn and selfishly leads to your own success. It’s a win-win.

Remember – working hard at your job doesn’t guarantee career progression. Professional growth requires additional effort and focus. It doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does need your attention. And while you’re climbing that career ladder, don’t forget about helping those on the lower rungs.