About Women in Finance: Figures, Facts and Feelings

A 2020 survey in the financial sector shows that women express higher management ambitions than men. We asked our Nordic CRO Jakob Legård Jakobsen, to reflect on this, and here is what surprises Jakob – and what does not.

First a quick introduction, Jakob. What was your own path into the financial industry?

It was my interest in macroeconomics that led me to the financial industry. My first job in the financial sector was as a macroeconomist in Nykredit Markets. After some years, I changed to a position in risk management which later led me to a job in Finance Denmark. Now I am back working with risk management here at BNP Paribas Personal Finance. Considering the multifaceted risk picture that surrounds us these days, I believe risk management is key for running a secure and profitably business.


In 2018, 26% of the managers in Danish banks and mortgage banks were women. How do you feel that it affects the industry that only a quarter of managers are women?

As you would expect men and women to have an equal interest of becoming leaders, it is surprising to see the huge difference in the number of men and women that actually gets a position at management level. It should give rise to reflection on why it is so.

Women have always been underrepresented at management level in the financial sector – and most other sectors – thus it is difficult to say what the consequences are specifically, because we have never tried otherwise. What we are missing is therefore difficult to quantify.

However, you would imagine that we miss a lot of potential. When bringing different backgrounds and other differences together in the decision room, I believe that the chance of evaluating a decision from all relevant angles increases, and therefore the outcome will be better

What it means measured in increased profit or increased employee satisfaction is difficult to quantify. Thinking of an orchestra with only drums or a football team with only midfielders, it gives you a hint of what we are missing by not having more women at management level.

By having a female CEO at BNP Paribas Personal Finance, the awareness of having a more equal gender composition might be higher here than in many other financial institutions, which we should benefit from.


A 2020 survey in the financial sector shows that women at all organisation levels – from managers to new employees – express higher management ambitions than men. What do you think about that?

As this survey shows, women actually wishes to become leaders even to a higher degree than men do. Therefore, it is thought-provoking that the share of women at management level is as low as it is.

The discrepancy between the career aspiration at the individual level and the actual outcome at the aggregated level should be explored more deeply and the reasons investigated more closely. Which actions should we take to bring women closer to positions with bottom line responsibility?

No matter what, it is important to find the reasons behind why women’s individual career ambition do not materialize as much as you would expect. That said, after all it is positive – and logically to expect – that women have management ambitions. The key task is to transform these ambitions into real life actions.