How can women in financial services marketing break the glass ceiling?

5 minutes

On February 8th, 2024, marketing recruiter, Jaemien Serrano, hosted an exclusive panel discu...

On February 8th, 2024, marketing recruiter, Jaemien Serrano, hosted an exclusive panel discussion for women in the financial services industry.  

Jaemien’s passion for driving inclusivity in the sector and recent research from 3Search prompted this eventResults from our 2024 salary survey revealed that the largest gender pay gap lies within the financial services industry. There were three times more male respondents earning the highest paying salary bracket than the women.  

To support more women into the highest paying job titles, Jaemien brought together a panel of successful female marketing leaders to share their career journeys. Attendees heard from: 

  • Kirsten Burt leads a strategic marketing consultancy based in London focusing on financial education, sustainable investing, and wealth management. She has a particular interest in helping empower female investors, having launched the global female customer program at UBS.  

  • Elspeth Rothwell is an experienced financial services communications leader. She founded the EMEA arm of one of the world’s fastest growing agencies, Vested. Vested is a forward-thinking integrated communications agency built to support financial institutions big and small.   

  • Mai Fenton is a Chief Marketing Officer and Non-Executive Director. She has over 20 years’ experience across a diverse range of consumer businesses, most recently at Superscript, a venture-backed insurtechMai is also a Non-Executive Director on the board of an investment company, Henderson International Income Trust plc. 

Together, they discussed... 

  • Their unique career journeys to Chief Marketing Officer and beyond 
  • Positioning yourself to progress in your career 
  • Balancing a career and childcare 

Keep reading for key takeaways from the morning’s discussion.  


Marketing career journeys 

Each of our panellists have had unique career paths. To kick off the event, Jaemien asked each speaker to give a brief overview of their experiences. 


Elspeth Rothwell, EMEA CEO 

Elspeth’s career began at small communications agency, specialising in the charity and financial services space. It was here that she realised her affinity for the sector. The business was run by two women, who gave her lots of opportunities and exposure to senior stakeholders from the start 

From there, throughout her career she has believed it important to champion and support women wherever possible. In her role at Vested, she has been able to bring in strong women. 


Kirsten Burt, Non-Executive Director, Founder and Consultant 

Kirsten started her career in pharma and PR, before realising that the skills were transferable to financial services. Kirsten’s goal was to build an international career, working either in New York, London or Dubai. The financial services industry is a great industry for international roles and traditionally pay better than other industriesThe sector has allowed Kirsten to build the life and career she was looking for. 


Mai Fenton, Chief Marketing Officer and Non-Executive Director 

Mai has developed a broader experience in her career, beginning in consumer and ecommerce before transitioning into financial services. Diversity was always something that Mai wanted to achieve in her career. She didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into one industry 

Admittedly, this is a difficult thing to do, as many hiring managers will look for sector experience. Mai advised anyone looking to do the same to gain respect quickly and always approach roles with curiosity. 


How do you position yourself to progress in your career? 


We received a lot of questions prior to the event around how women in marketing can position themselves to progress their careers to CMO and beyond 

Planning and preparation 

Mai advised attendees to identify the barriers they face in their careers and create a plan to overcome each.  

“A lot of planning and preparation to tackle the three barriers really worked out well for me in terms of shattering that glass ceiling.” 

In her own career, Mai identified three core barriers to success: 

  1. The invisible minority stereotype 
  2. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry 
  3. Not having ownership of her career path  

To find out how Mai overcame each and progressed her career, watch our interview with her here. 


Overcoming imposter syndrome 

Imposter syndrome is incredibly common and not something to be ashamed of. study by KPMG revealed that 75% of female executives have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. 

Elspeth shared her experiences with imposter syndrome and how that, in order to move her career forwards, she realised the importance of advocating for herself. Again, this required a lot of planning and preparation, taking the time to understand when to speak up and when to learn from others. 


Build your confidence and know your worth 

Kirsten shared the importance of reminding yourself that you belong at the table. To do this and overcome imposter syndrome, there are ways in which you can build your confidence. 

For instance, although it might sound simple, taking the time to practice your presentations beforehand can really boost your confidence. Engaging a coach can give you someone to help with this. They can also help you position yourself better to progress in your marketing career. 


Balancing a career and childcare 


A question from attendees centred around why there are lots of women in marketing, but not many at the senior level. Just 32% of female respondents to Annual Pay & Hiring Survey hold the Head of job title or above. This is compared to 41% of the male respondents.  

Jaemien asked our panellists what they think businesses can do to support more women into senior marketing jobs. 


Maternity and paternity leave 

Women operating at the senior level are often pulled in a number of different directions. From caring responsibilities at home to team management to execution of marketing campaigns. 

“It’s really important to get policies right.” 

Our speakers agreed that the disparity between maternity and paternity leave is a key barrier for women seeking senior roles. While it’s undeniable that progress has been made in terms of improving childcare policies, challenges remain. With the majority of men only receiving two weeks paternity leave, women are often seen as the primary caregiver and the time they spend off work can impact their career in a number of ways.  

While significant changes can be made – making maternity and paternity leave equal for men and women – more simple changes are just as valued. Allowing people to return to work without making it event, is much appreciated by many, especially when their confidence might already be low. 


Flexible working patterns 

One thing that is clearly valued by parents is flexibility in their role. Whether that is the ability to manage your diary to spend time with their children, or only working 4-days a week for childcare responsibilities. A flexible working environment is invaluable to parents. 

What are the non-negotiables? 

Managers of parents simply need to be open to those conversations. Take the time to understand how they can support them in finding the right work-life balance. 


A big thank you to our panellists  


We're extremely grateful to the senior female marketing leaders who contributed to this conversation. If you missed out on this conversation but would like to join us at our next one, register your interest below. 


Grow your financial services marketing career with 3Search 


Looking for marketing roles in financial services companies, apply to our latest opportunities hereWork with 3Search for the best recruitment experience you will find in the marketing sector. 

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