While preparing for the Level I of the CFA examination, and now into the next part, one thing I observed is that the number of Bangladeshi females enrolled in the CFA programme was significantly lower in comparison to their male counterparts. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Charter is a globally recognised designation obtained by those who successfully complete the CFA Programme, and meet the requirements of acceptable work experience. It represents one of the highest distinctions in the investment management industry, illustrating to employers that you harbour the knowledge base, and skill to prosper in the current climate of an extremely competitive, and dynamic investment industry. Based on my experience as a CFA exam candidate, I suggest some ways that will make it favourable for females in our society to embark on this programme.
UNIVERSITIES NEED TO STEP UP: More and more universities in Bangladesh need to affiliate themselves with the CFA Institute, which will create the possibility of incorporating 70 per cent of the exam content into the course curriculum. Moreover, the huge cost of registering for the exam and accessing the study materials could cause a hindrance for the average student/ recent graduate. Universities can provide CFA scholarships to top performing female students, and also those who illustrate the inclination to take the three-part exam but are hindered by financial setbacks. Arranging daytime seminars/ workshops can make it ideal for girls to interact with existing CFA charter holders in Bangladesh, and initiating classroom discussions where faculties increasingly highlight the benefits of this programme particularly to female students.
FAMILIES NEED TO BE SUPPORTIVE: Girls face immense pressure usually at the end of their graduation to get married while most of them also strive to get a head-start in their desired career plans.
This is where families especially need to play a role which should range from funding the exam all the way to taking off pressure to get married, and engage in household activities so that girls can attain both financial and moral support to enter the programme. My parents actively supported me in all possible ways from before I registered for the first exam till, I sat for it in the midst of a gruelling pandemic. My father inspired a lot in this difficult journey.
MINDSETS NEED TO CHANGE: There is an incredible degree of stigma encompassing women in finance especially in the investment management profession, which is still predominantly a men's world. As an aspiring banker very often, I encounter words such as "long working hours," "the culture is like this or that" and as such. Our encompassing society needs to stop endorsing stereotypes that hinder women from working in finance. Corporations that cater to the investment management industry not only need to step up their hiring of females but also implement and promote safe working practices as well as career development initiatives in order to illustrate age-old perceptions are being dismantled from their end, which in turn would give women here added impetus to pursue the CFA programme.
For Bangladeshi women out there, holding the CFA credential in their repertoire creates a wealth of opportunities to break into the investment management stream. I strongly believe many of them have the right kind of ambition, and attitude for doing that.
Mehnaz Tabassum Khaleel is a recent graduate with MSc Finance and Investment from University of Nottingham, UK, and currently working as an analyst for Alliance Capital Asset Management Limited.