Investing in Women Pays Dividends

Catherine Clay
March 14, 2024

I began my career as a clerk on the NYSE Arca trading floor, where I was one of the few women in a sea of thousands of loud men. When I became a trader, I knew I needed to make my voice heard if I wanted to succeed, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to out-shout my fellow traders. What I quickly realized, however, was that my voice was far different from all the men's voices, and it helped me stand out. I still needed to be loud, I still needed to know what I was doing and be good at my job, but by bringing something different to the table, I could capitalize on my unique strengths and deliver.

I’ve worked in many different roles since my time on the trading floor, but I have always worked within the financial services industry, and my experience on the floor has stuck with me. It gave me an incredible foundation to understand our markets and see opportunities for innovation, but, more importantly, it gave me an understanding of myself as a woman in finance.

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day was “Invest in Women,” which I believe should be a part of our everyday ethos. My early career taught me how to value and invest in myself, as well as to seek out the people and organizations that would invest in me — this part was key. I knew my potential and I was confident in my abilities, but you can only go so far on your own. 

In the past, women were either completely excluded from the opportunities available to men, or when they were given a seat at the table, they were not taken seriously or given the same resources to truly succeed. Thankfully, our world has improved greatly in this regard, and that benefits us all, not just women. 

Everyone’s perspective — regardless of gender, race, class or ability — has been shaped by their life experiences, and women typically see the world through a different lens than their male counterparts. Bringing together people with different perspectives only broadens our awareness and eliminates blind spots. When you have a balance of people who take different approaches to the same challenge, you create a team that can see more opportunities and avoid more pitfalls. But bringing more women to the table is just the first step.

Many more women work in the financial services industry now than they did when I got my start, but I believe we still have work to do in making it an equitable industry for women and other under-represented groups. At Cboe, we’ve worked hard to level the playing field, so the women at Cboe don’t just have the same opportunities as the men but have the resources to be successful when they seize those opportunities. These are corporate and HR-led initiatives, but they require support and investment from leaders to be effective. Our entire Executive Leadership team, me included, are fully behind these efforts.

And, unsurprisingly, those investments are paying dividends. Cboe continues to thrive and our associates overall report high levels of satisfaction. We continue to see more women join the company and rise to senior roles, bringing with them innovative ideas, thoughtful solutions and new ways of working. Investing in women is the smart thing to do and the right thing to do, and I am proud to work for an organization that values both. 

I have seen the impact of women firsthand in my time at Cboe and I am proud to champion this in my role as an executive leader. I strive to lift up the women around me and am mindful of how we are presenting opportunities across our global derivatives team. I encourage women on my team to practice their negotiating skills with me and offer my informal mentorship where it is welcome. Most importantly, I try to lead by example. I work hard, advocate for myself and treat everyone with respect.

Throughout my career, the financial services industry has become more diverse, equitable and inclusive, and I have loved being a part of the evolution. The industry has made investments in women in recent years, and continuing to provide resources like mentorship, equitable pay and equal opportunities will be incredibly impactful. That said, there is still a lot of room for growth. We are on the right track, but we cannot take our foot off the gas or become complacent with the progress we have made. 

Conscious and unconscious bias are still incredibly prevalent in our world, and the financial industry is no exception. At Cboe, we work to combat this with unconscious bias training, a commitment to sourcing a diverse candidate pool when hiring and continuous education from our associate resource groups. These efforts are important and impactful but fall flat if we do not accept the individual responsibility required to make a difference. It will take all of us, not just women, to achieve the fully equitable workplace we deserve, and I believe we are up to the challenge.

So much has changed for the better since I first stepped foot on the trading floor, and I am rooting for all the women who are finding their own voice and seeing their differences as strengths.