J.P. Morgan is targeting female candidates very early

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Women are under-represented in technology, and investment banks are fishing in an even smaller pool of candidates as those with desirable skills often look to other industries for opportunities.

Part of this is down to the pipeline, with a small proportion of women opting to study technical subjects at university, the supply of skilled graduates remains limited. J.P. Morgan is taking steps to address this by targeting potential female technologists before they even start at college.

Only 20% of applicants for its technology graduate places within the investment bank are women, and the supply of skilled female graduates remains stubbornly low. This week, it teamed up with University College London to offer an insight day into investment banking technology roles to A-level students who are considering studying engineering.

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"There is still a low number of women choosing to study technology, so we need to encourage young women by showing them what opportunities are available to them," said Julie Shapiro, head of risk technology at J.P. Morgan. "It's hard to break the cycle; in order for these girls to consider these careers, they need to see other women doing it."

Why target potential Engineering students rather than those looking to study Computer Science? Part of this is down to the analytical skills the subject instils, said Joel Baker, executive director of rates technology at J.P. Morgan.

"Students don't need to come armed with a lot of financial sector knowledge, but rather the logical decision-making, technical and analytical skills gained through an engineering degree make it an ideal subject for those wanting to enter investment banking technology," he said.

Not only do banks face a small pool of female talent, but they also have lower profiles than the likes of Apple and Google, or indeed smaller start-ups, when it comes to attracting potential technology candidates. Investment banks are, in fact, huge spenders on technology - $179.2bn in 2013 alone, according to research and consulting firm Celent - and have large teams. J.P. Morgan employs 30,000 people in technology worldwide, while Goldman Sachs has 8,000, or around 25% of headcount.

"It's still not a natural thing for technologists to look towards banking once they graduate," said Shapiro. "I started my career in more traditional engineering disciplines and I was very unaware of how interesting the technology challenges were in banking, so I initially stayed away. We need to get the message out to young women that the technology projects here are exciting and cutting edge."

The students we spoke to at the event seemed switched on to the opportunities within banking, with some suggesting that they were interested in trading and investment banking roles, as well as technology. Perhaps this is indicative of the increased competition for graduate places and how students need to be more switched on than ever to get a place.

Women that do enter financial technology have traditionally gravitated towards less technical roles. This has had an affect on their ability to make it to the more senior ranks, believes Shapiro.

"We've been looking at what happens to women in technology once they come in the door, and at what point during their career path we lose them," she said. "One thing to look out for is a move out of the more technical roles at an early point in their career. This may limit their opportunities to rise to more technical senior leadership roles, and ultimately lead to disappointment."

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