Friday, July 6, 2012

Advice for Women in Quantitative Finance

In my new role as a Quantitative Risk Technology executive, I continue to operate in a professional field with few women in leadership roles.

Quantitative Finance is a multidisciplinary field where math, science, technology and finance come together. It is the sweet spot of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Quantitative Finance is one of the most exciting and fast growing areas of Risk Management and Capital Markets however there is a lack of women role models in leadership positions.

For those who either have followed my blogs before or have met me at women forums you know that we see a serious lack of women and more so women in leadership positions in STEM careers. I have been a champion of attracting young women into STEM careers for quite some time and have taken this problem to the Capitol Hill.
More recently I had the opportunity to address this problem during an interview with the Hispanic Executive magazine.

When I first decided to switch from the emerging technologies field to Quantitative Finance and Analytics, I was looking for a complex leadership role in the interception of quant, technology and business. Then right after I walked into this role I spotted and already familiar trend – there is lack of quant women in leadership positions. Still today, after numerous efforts to hire a quant woman, all my direct reports are men. This is why one of my main goals as a Quant Risk Executive is to provide a role model to other women who want to follow this career path.

Last year, I visited the Carnegie Mellon Computational Finance program to talk to the students about quantitative technology positions in financial services. I like their program because in addition to the rigorous quantitative curriculum students get exposure to business classes and I was also very pleased to see a good number of young females pursuing degrees in Mathematical Finance and Computational Finance. Unfortunately, several female students were looking for quant research positions and very few applied to our roles.

The first step is to create a pipeline of young women. The second step is to help them to develop the soft skills that are needed to advance to a leadership role Helping young quant females to help them develop soft business skills it is very important. First because these skills will help not only to advance in their careers in Corporate America but also because a deeper understanding of the business will help them to develop models that take into account common sense or using a more quantitative jargon models that will take into account the volatility of the human decision making process.

Finally, for those women in quantitative fields that are looking to develop softer skills that will complement their quantitative skills, here are some tips that require additional attention and perhaps training and development:

- A good business decision make on time is better than a perfect decision make later.
- Perfection is a relative term. Look for an efficient solution (efficient in this context could be a result of cost, time and resources).
- What you do is as important as How you do it.
- Don’t be afraid to say that you are not 100% sure on your answer. But always ask for an opportunity to follow up with the right answer.
- Learn to explain problems in business terms and to deal with uncertainty.

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