3 Ways to 'Make Yourself Known' in a Male-Dominated Industry

Marjan van der Weijden, Managing Director at Fitch Ratings. Photo courtesy of Fitch Ratings

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Marjan van der Weijden, Managing Director at Fitch Ratings. Photo courtesy of Fitch Ratings

Women know all too well that working in finance isn’t always the easiest career choice. That’s why we’re taking a moment to applaud one company’s serious strides toward making the industry more friendly to women. 
We recently checked in with Marjan van der Weijden, a Managing Director at Fitch Ratings, where she’s the Global Head of Structured Finance and Covered Bonds. She explained how she rose to a position of leadership, offered her insight on what kind of mindset and techniques will lead to success, and filled us in on how Fitch has helped  support her throughout her career. (Before you get jealous, we’ll let you know that Fitch is hiring right now!).
Here are three strategies she swears by: 

1. Work hard, emphasize your strengths, and remain focused on results.

Van der Weijden said that despite working in a male-dominated industry, she hasn’t felt like she’s been judged differently from her male colleagues. “Fitch judges you on your results, your merit, and how you perform,” she explained, adding that she’s been lucky to work there.
She suggested that women who face bias or opposition should think hard about what they’re good at and focus on their strengths. “Nine out of 10 people will judge you on that rather than anything else.” 
In addition, she said that “making sure you deliver in workplace” will pay off, especially when your circumstances require more flexibility. “It’s a two-way street,” Van der Weijden said. “If you work hard and deliver, then flexibility is a possibility.” 

2. Be vocal about your wants and needs, and take advantage of flexibility.

Van der Weijden credits some of her success with the fact that she hasn’t been afraid to ask for more flexible work situations. She’s worked at Fitch for 18 years, and throughout her tenure has asked to relocate to Singapore when her husband had an opportunity to move for work. She didn’t face pushback, which allowed her to remain as devoted to her family as she was to her career. 
Van der Weijden said Fitch was similarly receptive to her requests for flexibility when she had each of her three children. “I have been able, within my career at Fitch, to ‘ramp off and ramp on again,’” she said, adding that when her kids were young, she worked three days a week and then four days a week. “I had some periods to settle with my family life and young children. Fitch has given me the opportunity to keep my foot in the door but also not make me feel like I’m compromising family life.” 
Today, Van der Weijden works full time — but she’s remote one day per week. She explained that this schedule works well not only for her, but for Fitch as well. “I try to stick to [the four-day-per-week schedule] because it keeps me sane. Instead of my usual long commute, that day I can be part of my family’s routine. When I work from home I’m actually quite productive — so it works on both sides.” 

3. Don’t be afraid to speak up and take risks.

Advancing your career — particularly in a male-dominated industry or culture, where some may harbor unconscious biases and presumptions — is easier said than done. That’s why being proactive about challenging perceptions is key. Van der Weijden advised that you need to make yourself known if you’re up for new challenges; otherwise, your colleagues may presume that you’re not interested in taking on certain responsibilities. 
She added that “taking a bit of risk and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can actually get you more results.” Van der Weijden admitted that she was initially somewhat nervous about her decision to relocate because of her husband’s job, but that experience has actually brought her to where she is today. 
Indeed, her international move paid off. While she used to manage structured finance for Fitch in Europe, Van der Weijden now heads the same division  — but on a global level.  “Taking on other roles in new cultures and new environments — I probably wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t made that international move,” she said. “It’s brought me so much. I’ve learned a lot from it; and now I’m globally responsible for a team.”
If you think Fitch sounds like a pretty ideal workplace, you’re not alone. Check out their open positions today!
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