Like many before me, I came into financial services completely by accident. I was previously in music management, which was very much the life of a single person, before I decided to change direction. I applied for the position of an administration manager through an agency and got the job which happened to be with Lancashire Mortgage Corporation. That was more than 20 years ago and during that time I have seen many changes throughout the specialist finance sector, especially over more recent years from a diversity, equality and inclusion perspective.

Having said that, financial services has always been, and still is to an extent, a very male dominated industry. Attending a variety of award ceremonies over the years certainly brought this to light. This has improved, and good work continues to be done across the industry to raise awareness on some hugely important topics and difficult conversations, but it’s important not to forget many not so subtle obstacles that women have had to overcome in times gone by.

When I worked for a lender it was not so apparent as the introducers did not have much choice if they wanted funds for their client. However, it soon became all too apparent when I joined Envelop – formerly First 4 Bridging. I would call brokers on cases and leave messages and on numerous occasions they would not return my call but would call my CEO. Fortunately, my CEO was, and still is, incredibly supportive, knew my capabilities and he would direct them back to me. I must have made a good impression though because I am now the first point of contact for many of them.

Compared to when I began my career, thankfully, there is now a much smoother passage for women in the industry and there are many highly successful and aspirational women operating at senior management level for the younger generations to look up to. Although, there are still certainly not as many as there should be.

Despite this forward progress, I would offer the same advice back then as I would now. If you have a passion for financial services, then gender should not hold you back. Be focused, stay on track, do not be distracted, realise your own worth and be successful. Only you can hold you back. If you are confident and determined and prepared to work hard there is no reason why you would not be successful. I am a firm believer that you take out what you put in.

For businesses, I would urge them to equalise performance reviews and ensure both men and women are evaluated fairly and on individual merits. Have input from both male and female managers for an unbiased approach. Attribute a salary to a role, not an individual and always strive for equality. After all, having a diverse workforce makes for a far more rounded, efficient and effective workforce.

Donna Francis (Née Wells), Managing Director at Envelop