Many of the men who run banks acknowledge the power of diversity, and most dutifully ensure that when a senior woman leaves their company another capable woman is hired.

Most CEOs also are committed to achieving and maintaining a certain percentage of women in high-level positions.

Barbara A. Rehm

But now that this mountain has been scaled, let's climb higher.

Women — both the veterans profiled in these pages and younger women who attended our Mentor Factor day in New York this summer — acknowledge the progress made so far. But they are also anxious for the day when it's a given that a financial firm has a critical mass of women.

How do we get there? One key is getting more women into line jobs earlier in their careers.

The women who have succeeded in financial services will tell you that the best way to get noticed, to get ahead and to get promoted is to produce tangible results.

Running a business provides a means of proving your worth to a company. Today not enough women are in these jobs. Too many are in marketing, legal, risk management and human resources. It's not that these positions aren't important. They are. But they are also more vulnerable to cuts when times are tough. It's harder to let go a woman who is making money for the company.

So let's raise the bar and start judging companies on how many women they have in the P&L pipeline. It would ensure that more women are ready and able to take on senior roles.

This isn't about "doing good" or gaining some bragging rights. It's about facing reality and preparing for the future. It's about employing a balanced workforce that is better able to meet the coming challenges.

This year women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. And three women will earn a college degree this year for every two men who do.

As The Atlantic magazine reported in its July/August cover story, "The End of Men," the one thing most men have over most women-physical strength and stamina-is no longer much of an advantage. Indeed, women more naturally possess the sorts of communication skills that are critical to economic success today.

"The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men's size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today-social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus-are, at a minimum, not predominantly male," according to the magazine article.

So consider this a challenge for the next year: encourage your company to take a look at how it identifies talented young people and make sure more of the women in this group get directed into line jobs. Make sure they get good mentors who push them to apply for bigger jobs.

It's the only way that women in financial services will ever achieve critical mass-and that is the point at which change occurs.

Barbara A. Rehm
Editor-At-Large

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