Lessons from the top women in finance, data, & systems

Lessons from the top women in finance, data, & systems

On March 23, Leapfin team hosted some of the brightest women leaders in finance today to share their experiences and advice on battling adversity as female leaders, supporting women in finance, building a career as part of a minority group, and many other topics.

I had a chance to speak with:

Palak Handa, Corporate Controller @ Hootsuite

Oana Labes, MBA, CPA President & Finance/Accounting Influencer @ Financiario

Lisa Sheldon, VP Corporate IT @ GoodRx

Arpitha Prakash, Head of Business/Finance Information Systems & Transformation @ Lime

Megan Binkley, CPA, Deputy CFO @ Root

Kamla Kasichainula, Data Engineering Manager @ Calm

While there are companies who have many — or even a majority — of women in finance and accounting, the percentage of women tends to decrease at higher seniority levels.

The Journal of Accountancy recently reported that 16% of large company CFOs are now women. Although that’s up from 6% in 2004, it’s clear we need more women in leadership. The transformation has been anything but easy: it’s been driven by the fearless determination, courage, and talent of countless female leaders who’ve paved the way.

The leaders I spoke to went through challenging journeys to get to where they are today and offered plenty of tips and encouragement for women looking to build a finance career. Here are some of the insights they shared with me and our audience at our 1st Annual Women in Finance, Data, and Systems Awards for 2023.

Oana, the president at Fincerio, shared her perspective of being a woman and a minority in finance and accounting:

“Remember that while there is power in representation, which we do not have, there is also power in being a minority where your voice is not the same as the voice of the crowd. And where your perspective can be extremely valuable because it’s different from that of the crowd.”

“If you’re going to be outnumbered, make sure you’re not outworked and outsmarted.”

women in finance

Palak, Controller at Hootsuite, shared her experience as a woman of color in finance and the impact of diverse representation in leadership:

“Diverse teams bring diverse perspectives and experiences, leading to well-rounded, informed decision-making. This leads to higher employee morale and the multiplier effect, where each woman added to the C-suite results in three more women being added to senior leadership positions.

Women leaders are just as ambitious as men, but face headwinds signaling that it’ll be harder for them to advance. Lack of mentors and role models makes it more challenging for women to navigate the path ahead. The broken rung still holds women back. Women in finance are more likely to face belittling microaggressions, which men don’t experience. However, things are improving, and Hootsuite is an example of better representation.

Kamla, Data Engineering Manager at Calm, shared her journey of transitioning from a female-dominated industry to the male-dominated field of data engineering, emphasizing the importance of supportive peers and a healthy work culture. 

You miss out on having a level of peers when moving from a female-dominated industry into a male-dominated one. I try to make sure the company culture allows for support and inclusivity. Find your allies and those who will support you in your efforts to make things more equitable.

Megan, the Deputy CFO at Root, shared a similar opinion about supporting team members and finance having a strategic seat at the table:

“It takes one woman that is willing to invest in other women, helping other women rise. I mean, when you see your colleagues doing a great job, give them credit.

“I think what’s really important is just being painfully consistent and vocal on the need for finance to have a seat at the table. I think that, you have to really leverage that financial expertise and make it clear that this allows us to create significant value, reduce unnecessary risks, reduce cost, etc. I think that alone deserves a seat at the strategy table.”

Finally, Arpitha, Head of Finance Information Systems & Transformation at Lime, spoke about what it takes to stand up to discrimination against women everywhere:

“To make changes, we need to remove the unconscious bias at the elementary education level, create networking opportunities, and make deliberate efforts to uplift women in tech.”

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll share more insights and advice from these amazing women. You’ll learn about how they’ve been able to overcome their biggest challenges, their perspectives on the most important issues in finance today, and much more.

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