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Cathrin Petty, J.P. Morgan's head of healthcare investment banking, on what it takes to move more women up the ranks.

J.P. Morgan's head of healthcare on making it to the top as a woman in investment banking

J.P. Morgan’s head of healthcare investment banking for EMEA, Cathrin Petty, is among a select band of female bankers to make it to a senior front office job, but this is not the most remarkable thing about her career. She only moved to the U.S. bank in 2014, and up until that point had spent most of her career in private equity.

In 2016, the proportion of female employees working in private equity is 12% globally, according to new figures from Preqin. In Europe this figure is 10% and just 7% of senior employees in buyout firms are women. And Petty started out in the 1990s.

In investment banking the figure is better, but not representative - 23% of people working in investment banking registered with eFinancialCareers are female.

The need for patience

Petty didn’t go straight into finance, having first studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, and only decided to move into the sector after completing an MBA. Not surprisingly, perhaps, she was ambitious to move up the ranks and quickly. This is not necessarily a realistic approach.

“The advice I’d give to myself if I was starting out again would be to be more patient,” she says. “Along the way, things can take a little longer than you’d envisaged – especially if you have children. It’s about recognising that is OK, and that your career doesn’t have to be linear.”

Petty tells us that the finance industry’s attitude towards women is “night and day” from when she started out, but admits there’s still work to be done in order to retain women in front office positions.

“There needs to be flexibility for women with families enabling them to return to the workforce. The challenge for investment banking is simply because depending on the role the hours are unpredictable and there’s a lot of travel,” she says. “I never know which country I’ll be in from one week to the next, or when I will be at home. In my own personal experience I’ve needed a strong support system in place at home and, importantly, a supportive spouse.”

One of the biggest challenges of Petty’s career was returning to work in private equity after having her first child. This was before the days of ‘returnship’ programmes designed to ease women back into the workforce and her largely male colleagues in private equity weren’t exactly welcoming.

“Finance wasn't always as supportive of women looking to start a family which was my experience when I had my first child earlier in my career,” she says. “Our key challenges remains retaining and integrating women when they return to work.”

Getting diversity right

J.P. Morgan was ranked number one among female respondents in the eFinancialCareers Ideal Employer survey, which polled 6,500 people on the firms they’d most like to work for. Petty says that key to retaining women in the banking sector is to ensure that it’s not just about “having a mission statement” and actually having tangible actions in place.

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“That can be smaller things like having women’s breakfast meetings and ensuring mentors and buddies are available across the organisation,” she says. “There are a number of managers across the organisation at J.P. Morgan who are very engaged and dedicate real time and effort to supporting diversity.”

The easiest way to encourage more women into senior banking roles is to ensure some good role models. J.P. Morgan has a ‘Women on the Move’ programme, which allows women within the bank to exchange ideas and feedback with senior female executives including CFO Marianne Lake and its asset management CEO, Mary Erodes.

Female role models are one thing, but there needs to be push both internally and externally, says Petty.

“There’s nothing quite like more women in senior investment banking positions to reinforce the message, but it’s also important for clients to support it as well,” she says.

View the complete 2016 eFinancialCareers Ideal Employer Rankings


AUTHORPaul Clarke

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