Securing the financial future of women

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.

Meet the UOW graduate and researcher who are each leading the way for women in finance.

They say money makes the world go round, but what can it do to reduce gender inequalities? A lot, according to the experts.  

The United Nations' theme for International Women's Day, Invest in Women. Accelerate progress emphasises how just economies can alleviate geopolitical conflicts, poverty, and the impact of climate change.  

Women in FinTech   

Dr Ivy Zhou is a senior lecturer in finance at the University of Wollongong (UOW), researching financial market dynamics, specifically digital currencies and asset tokenisation. She's had the opportunity to study, work and conduct research in the UK, China and Australia, but UOW's warm and welcoming academic community drew her to Wollongong.  

"It felt like a place where I could genuinely contribute and grow as an early career researcher. The University's strong emphasis on mentoring, teaching innovation and research excellence makes it stand out as the ideal destination for my academic journey," Dr Zhou says.  

Dr Zhou's career progression is testimony to the power of a supportive environment for women working in FinTech. She is especially grateful for the guidance of her UOW mentor, Professor Millicent Chang.

Dr. Ivy Zhou is a senior lecturer in Finance at University of Wollongong. 

"My career journey highlights the substantial support I've received, which has been essential in nurturing my growth and unlocking my potential, particularly during those key transitional phases," she adds. 

"It really shines a light on how crucial it is to have strong female mentors in academia."  

Throughout her career, Dr Zhou witnessed a positive shift towards inclusivity and diversity in finance but still maintains there is a long way to go when it comes to closing the gender pay gap in leadership positions, guaranteeing equal opportunities for women, and integrating them into emerging fields. She also notes a scarcity of women working in FinTech. 

"For me, 'Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress' highlights the importance of providing equitable opportunities and support to women, especially at critical points in their careers, like after graduating, during maternity leave, and similar critical moments.” 

Looking to the future, she encourages women to pursue their interests in finance and economics.  

"Leverage your unique skillset, seek out mentors and like-minded peers, and never underestimate the impact of your voice in driving changes. Use every resource available for learning—never limit your knowledge or growth. Embrace lifelong learning and stay adaptable to the fast-evolving financial landscape." 

The Female CFO 

UOW graduate Deborah Power is the founder of The Female CFO, a business dedicated to empowering women entrepreneurs with financial literacy.

With a lifelong love of business, UOW graduate Deborah Power has dedicated her career to empowering women business owners in their finances. After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce, Deborah went on to work at KMPG as a junior accountant, led and managed finance teams at LVMH and The Manpower Group, and founded her two businesses, Your Finance Team and The Female CFO. 

“UOW was the very best introduction to all things finance and business. KPMG gave me the incredible skills and knowledge that I needed to move into commerce and help businesses,” she says.  

“I now consult to small businesses as a CFO and finance mentor to help them understand the numbers in their business and to then grow and scale their business.”    

During her consulting years, Deborah worked with various business owners and witnessed several women attempting to balance entrepreneurship with traditional gender roles. This experience motivated her to establish a business that assists women in achieving financial independence and freedom of choice.  

“I have worked with many male and female business owners, but in my view, female business owners have to work so much harder. They often have a family, and need to juggle being a business owner, growing their business, managing a team, while also looking after their kids, getting them to school and running a household.  

“The mental drain of all that can be exhausting.”  

It’s now Deborah’s mission to ensure women in business can pay themselves a great salary and super, have profits to invest back into a thriving company, and have the financial freedom they desire.  

The leaders of tomorrow   

Deborah has personally experienced a lot of change during her finance career. She recalls when women had to wear skirts and stockings to client meetings—no pants allowed! While we have made strides in overcoming such inequalities, there are ways to ensure that women are heard, seen, and given equal opportunities within the workplace. According to Deborah, childcare is a good place to start.   

“I still think there is a way to go to ensure we keep women in the workforce after they have children. Childcare needs to be more affordable for families,” she says. 

However, she believes education is our biggest tool for empowerment.    

“In relation to business, the fundamentals of financial literacy and running a business should be taught in schools. All too often women in business are overwhelmed or afraid of the numbers in their business mainly because they don’t understand what they mean. This needs to change.”   

She reflects on how her UOW education gave her the confidence to embark on a career in finance and encourages businesses, communities, and individuals to invest in women for a brighter future.  

“By investing in women’s education and welfare, we can help build businesses and communities to ensure we create a better world and future for our leaders of tomorrow.  

“We know that when women have wealth, it gets shared, communities grow, families prosper, and the world becomes a better place,” she finishes.