J.P. Morgan loses prominent female tech star to Barclays

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Most investment banks like to shout about what they’re doing when it comes to attracting more women into senior technology roles, and it helps to have a good PR figurehead to roll out. J.P. Morgan had that in Kritika Shekar, a 16-year veteran of the bank who had risen up the ranks and won awards for her achievements in technology.

Now, however, she’s left J.P. Morgan to take the role as head of Asia enterprise solutions technology at Barclays investment bank. Shekar has held a series of leadership roles in J.P. Morgan’s technology team including global head of production and infrastructure management over its derivatives business – a job which included oversight of a team of 175 people – but for the past two years been head of business implementation and test strategy for custody and clearing.

The move is significant, not least because Shekar is comparatively rare example of a female technologist who has made it to the upper ranks, and stayed there. You can see her career advice here. She’s a relatively high-profile figure who won the ‘outstanding contribution by a female in financial technology’ award by Banking Technology magazine in 2010. She has also had two breaks for maternity leave, in 2000 and 2002, when she relinquished her roles within the bank to a successor, but returned to J.P. Morgan in new senior positions across Japan, Australia and the U.K.

Most banks are keen to promote careers in financial technology to young women, and having role models within the firm to provide inspiration is key to this. J.P. Morgan, for instance, recently hosted an insight day for female A-level students considering studying engineering at university – a key hunting ground for banks’ IT departments.

The number of women studying degrees in the U.K. that will help give them a leg up into the City pales in comparison to men. While the number of women studying economics rose by 10% to 5,500 over the past ten years, figures for their male counterparts surged by 26% to 14,290 over the same period. The Confederation of British Industry has called on more City firms to target female sixth-form students.

Higher up the ranks, the U.K.’s Prudential Regulation Authority is making waves to break the glass ceiling for women in the financial sector, and may soon set targets for banks to employ a certain proportion of women in senior positions.

J.P. Morgan and Barclays didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.